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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!
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!
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!
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!