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About Me

Found 14 results

  1. Well, we were able to get a little sunshine today as a weak ridge of high pressure moved through the area. Unfortunately, the next weather system is hot on its heels and will bring clouds and rain back to Alaska through this week. Indications are right now that we may see some improvement in conditions Thursday evening and into Friday (Sep 10th), which may give us a shot to see some light activity over the weekend. If you're like me, you're ready for these clouds and all of the rain to move out and give us some clear skies! We will get them...eventually!
  2. For those of us in Alaska, this holiday weekend has been a bummer of sorts...at least, for those of us itching for the chance to see Lady Aurora. The clouds and rain will continue to stick around through the weekend with conditions beginning to improve around mid-day on Monday (Sep 6). Solar activity is projected to pick up a little bit around then too, with a stream of solar material projected to begin heading our way. There may be a chance to see some activity in the early morning hours of Tuesday, but it does not look hopeful for much the rest of the week as clouds and rain return with the next weather system and persist through next weekend. As always, the weather models can be wrong, so it is good to keep an eye on the forecast for any changes.
  3. I don't know how many of you are like me: ready for the night! Here in the Anchorage area, we are starting to get longer nights, albeit slowly, but it is happening! The past couple of weeks have had us socked in with clouds and rain, so tonight is potentially going to be a long one. We have a couple of chances this week for good auroral activity! Image Source: SWPC The above image is from the Space Weather Prediction Center's WSA-Enlil model depiction. As you can see, midnight Alaska Daylight Time shows the first coronal mass ejection (CME) impacting Earth; a great time for us to see this happening since it will be dark! You can see the second CME behind it which is projected to impact us around nearly the same time on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning. Unfortunately for those of is in/around Anchorage, clouds look to be a factor for the arrival of the second CME. Tonight looks to be our best shot to start the season off great! Again, this is a model depiction, so it must be taken with a grain of salt. However, the data observed so far today appears to be in line with what the WSA-Enlil product is showing. If it holds true, we should be in for a treat tonight! 😄
  4. The offseason brought along some much-needed rest and relaxation. It also brought the need to make some changes to the app and make it...better! While the design is much the same as the previous three versions, the navigation tab needed an overhaul. The screen transitions with the old tab were clunky and caused speed issues while using the app. You should notice much more responsiveness when changing screens now! The move to the latest version also brought about a change in how the app provides insight to the user. Before, the potential to see aurora was designed and tested here in the Anchorage area; specifically, tailored toward 61N latitude. The goal of the app is to be global; meaning, it has to work well everywhere. Thus, the algorithm was completely revamped to account for this. Furthermore, seeing activity with varying degrees of data variables, it was evident that activity can happen in a wide array of scenarios. However, there are a few variables that highlight the greatest chance to see the lights. So, that is where the focus is now. Will it work? I don't know. So far, watching the lights across Canada and the only valid data for the area here in Anchorage this season points to YES! This newest version also added a goal: the gallery. Aurora activity is truly a thing of beauty and, while my focus is on video, several wonderful photographers capture her in all of her beauty. I wanted a way to showcase that and...now we've got it! Another recent addition (yesterday, in fact) was the WSA-Enlil model graphic for the current hour. Take it with a grain of salt...it is a model after all...but, it is a good visual of what the experts are projecting to happen in the current hour; and, it is great info to have to see if tonight might be a good night! I hope you enjoy the app! As development continues, it has been amazing to have a chance to put my web programming and education skills to the test! Current thoughts are still lingering about setting up a subscription fee but, truth be told, my payment is in the use and excitement I hear from people using it. Time will tell but I think, for now anyway, Amazing Aurora will continue to be free (with just one little pesky ad to deal with)! If you like what you see and you use the app, feel free to drop in a donation. Every little bit helps offset the costs of keeping the engine purring!
  5. We may...MAY...have another good shot at some good aurora activity coming up on April 16th. The weather for the week looks to be pretty bleak, but Friday's forecast is looking like partly cloudy skies with some potential clearing late. The problem is the lack of darkness. We will enter nautical twilight around 11:30 p.m. and come out of night at around 2:40 a.m. with the sun starting to move into sunrise. My experience this weekend was that activity was hard to see after about 3-4 a.m. due to the sun starting to rise and the activity being very faint. The Kp forecast is for a 4 on Friday, so we will see if that pans out and how it translates. Right now, I am looking to go out and set up around 1 a.m. but might go earlier depending on how data lines up. We shall certainly see!
  6. Underneath the solar wind projections, and between the trend data, is an experimental aurora indicator. I added this as a visual aid when looking at the data to help a view see if it is possible to see the aurora here in the Anchorage area. It has three possibilities: red, yellow, and green. A red message indicates that, at least by programmed standards, the aurora should be visible soon, if not already. If the message is yellow, it means that conditions are favorable for auroral activity, but may not necessarily be happening at this very moment. The green indicator means that criteria for auroral activity has not been met. Again, completely experimental at this point and the values will be tweaked while reports or personal observations come in of aurora activity. However, I think it's a pretty good ballpark for now...time will tell! Have you used it? If so, when? I can look back on data and see what values were to help fine tune the indicator!
  7. This weekend was a long, busy one for getting things cleaned up on the site. What started out as a gee whiz data pull is being accepted as a good tool for monitoring the chance to see auroral activity here in our area! That said, things needed cleaned up a bit and eliminate calls to outside websites. Thus, all code was updated to pull data at regular intervals, store the data in the database, and put the stress on my server versus those of the agencies the data is pulled from. For example, instead of making four calls to the National Weather Service for each page load to generate the cloud forecast, one call is made every 30 minutes, saved, and data is displayed from the local cache. Much more efficient and needed once testing was complete. The solar wind projections and trends block also received an overhaul. It was redesigned to ease viewing and, hopefully, to help with interpretation of the data. The numbers were tweaked to try mimicking what we typically see here in the local Anchorage area, but it may take some time to develop and fine-tune the algorithm to provide the best advice to those trying to see if tonight is a good night to check out the northern lights. More to come and some good ideas in the works for that, so keep an eye out!
  8. A lot of people want to take photos of the northern lights but don’t know where to start and the camera manual can be a daunting place to learn. This post is just a generic starting point from which you can tweak your settings and be taking great photos out the gate. If your camera had a manual mode, then that’s where you should be setting it! ISO I prefer to shoot at an ISO between 200-600 to reduce noise in my photos. Many modern cameras have very good sensitivity and you can easily get away with a much higher ISO which will in turn reduce the shutter speed drastically. Aperture This is where you pay for quality pictures. The lower you can set your f-stop (aperture), the lower you can go with ISO and shutter speed. I don’t shoot anything higher that 2.8 and prefer to use my 1.4 to really let in the most light. Shutter Speed This one is the most flexible setting based on all of the other settings chosen as well as the brightness of the lights. I usually start out at 20” exposures and work my way from there. On a visually active display I can go down to 4” exposures. On a slow night I may want to extend it to 25” or 30”. Be mindful that as you approach 30” and beyond you will introduce star trails into your photos because at that long of an exposure your camera will begin to detect them moving across the sky. Ideal Settings On a typical display I will usually shoot with the following settings: ISO 400 Aperture 1.4 Shutter Speed 10” Helpful Tips Always remember to set your lens to manual focus and get it set up on focus before your big shoot! The night sky is far away and there’s not enough of a subject for your camera and lens to achieve auto focus in the field under the darkness of night. I always start by setting my lens to the infinite focus mark then moving it 1/8TH of an inch to the right and then narrow it down from there through a series of photos and zooming in on them between shots. Once you have it in focus it’s a good idea to tape the ring so it can’t be bumped or accidentally moved before and during your big photoshoot. Try to use a dedicated lens for shooting the Aurora. A wide angle or ultra wide angle lens with a length somewhere between 14 and 22 mm can capture a great amount of the sky. If you shoot canon, drop a reply and I can give you several specific examples to shop for! Any other questions please drop a reply!
  9. We got a very nice treat on February 13, 2021, when Lady Aurora showed up! The Kp forecast for the day was 2, so there was no reason to believe we would really have a good show. I was working on creating a block for solar wind data here on the website and, while doing so, noticed that the numbers appeared to be trending positive for potential aurora activity. As I sat watching the values continue to improve, Bz going very negative; Bt climbing to above 10; density reaching 22; and the wind speed increasing to over 400, I had a feeling we were going to get a show! We just had to pray the values remained elevated...and, they did! I put out a message to the JBER Northern Lights Facebook group, a group of people affiliate with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson who admire the aurora, around 4pm Alaska time to let them know what I was seeing. There was an alert from SpaceWeatherLive.com earlier in the day about an Earth-facing coronal hole moving into position with activity expected to increase Sunday night into Monday morning, but there was nothing being discussed for Friday. However, the data just kept saying, "Lady Aurora is coming tonight!" So, I wanted to make everyone aware to keep an eye out for her. We did not get much activity before the main band of lights hit. Sometimes, when values are supportive of auroral activity, we will get a short show between 8pm and 10pm Alaska time. A lot of people hit the "early show" since it is more conducive to children and early morning work shifts. Last night, however, there was really nothing leading up to the 1am to 4am window of activity. She simply just put on one show and that was it. As we drove out to Big Lake, we could see the arc intensifying and I just kept praying, "please hold off until I get into position!" There was a bit of movement in the arc, but the majority of activity held off until right around 12:30am. The main portion of the lights tailed off around 2am with the arc re-intensifying around 4am for a short-lived burst of minor activity. All in all, it was a very good night of aurora chasing. I will certainly be keeping an eye on the data today to see if February 14 will start with another amazing display!
  10. Tonight and tomorrow (February 6-7, 2021), the Kp forecast is 4. This is based on the Earth-facing coronal hole which developed on the sun. They anticipate solar wind speeds to pick up and a stream of material to impact the near Earth environment. Right now, the speeds are average (in the 372 km/s range) and density is average as well (around 5 p/cm3). So, we'll keep an eye on those values throughout the day tomorrow to determine if tomorrow night looks like a good night to chase. The cloud forecast for tomorrow night looks very, very favorable; so, it looks like a good possibility of a long night ahead. I am still trying to determine exactly where we will set up tomorrow. Too many people hit the high-elevation and scenic spots when the aurora comes in. I don't need scenery, I just need lights! Right now, I am thinking we will probably roll our around midnight to 1:00am on the 7th. Keep your eyes peeled to the live chase page around that time to see if we are out. I will also be posting to Twitter as well. Feel free to join us virtually!
  11. I added a GoPro Hero 9 Black to my arsenal yesterday. I took it out for a test drive last night to check out the video quality at night. I am hoping I have the settings tuned enough to where it's not just a black screen, but we'll see. Thus, I will be chasing with my iPhone 12, iPad mini, all-sky camera, and the GoPro. It is definitely a fun hobby but oh so tiring at the same time!
  12. Ronnie

    Aurora Watch

    The plan is to go aurora chasing again! We will be out from around 11:00pm to 3:00am Alaska Standard Time. Location is still TBD, but we have a special addition to this chase: GoPro live streaming! Check out the Twitch channel and follow us LIVE!
  13. There was an alert from SpaceWeatherLive.com tonight regarding a coronal hole. Apparently, there is an Earth-facing hole projected to increase the solar wind speed and particles headed our way. That said, they are forecasting a Kp value of 4 for February 7th. This means that between the night of the 6th and into the morning of the 7th, we could have some very good activity! We may continue to see some good displays up north and I am really hoping that the lights will be visible then. Depends on where you look for weather. Weather Underground has us partly cloudy and the National Weather Service says we will be mostly cloudy with snow. I guess we will see come Saturday night!
  14. Well, you can't say we didn't try! We went out to Hatcher Pass last night, about an hour and 15 minutes north of our house, and sat there from 10:00pm until roughly 1:30am this morning. We were very hopeful we would see some activity. The space weather sites were talking about geomagnetic storming, forecasts were showing Kp index values forecast to hit 4 and 5, and Mother Nature gave us a rare, cloud-free night. It seemed like a perfect combination of variables for a great night of watching the northern lights...and, nothing! I am trained in terrestrial weather forecasting, so this space stuff is somewhat new to me. I did spend a couple of years analyzing the sun at one of our solar observatories, but we did not really do much with the solar wind, Kp, etc. Thus, I am learning about all of this stuff during this, my first winter in Alaska. I have gathered that solar wind speeds have to be elevated, above 400 km/s, with a density of at least 10 cm3, and a Bz in the negative. Last night, wind speeds were around 325 km/s, density was up just around 10 cm3 or slightly above, and the Bz was bouncing up and down. It wasn't great data, but the hope was there. Some started to see some faint lights after about 3:00am and I watched Facebook, in anticipation, until about 3:30am before I called it quits. It just wasn't meant to be. However, we did get some good out of it! I tested the latest iteration of my All-Sky camera. We successfully tested the off-network connection of the camera to my iPhone. This was a critical piece because the webserver for the camera can be utilized to view the latest live photo and make adjustments as necessary. Additionally, we tested that there is enough power from our vehicle's USB ports to power the camera while it sits on top of the roof. Thus, we were able to keep an eye on the sky from the warmth of the car and adjust exposure, gain, and other variables to see what worked best. In the end, it was a good trial run, even if Lady Aurora refused to put on a show! We may head out again tonight, but I am going to keep an eye on the cloud conditions. We have a pretty mature low-pressure system and ridge battling it out just over far western Alaska, so I am crossing my fingers that Mother Nature gives us one more shot at seeing some good activity from Lady Aurora this week. We'll see!
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