Sunspot group 1261 has had a busy week unleashing at least 3 M-class solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) toward the Earth last week. While still year from solar max, this is quite a bit of activity. I took a photo of the sun and sunspot group 1261 from my deck last week:
"1261" is the middle the three groups at 1 o'clock position.
As the week progressed and the calculations of the paths of the CMEs grew more refined, it was shaping up to have great potential for an aurora borealis outbreak later in the week for mid to high magnetic latitude folks. And as the weekend approached, scientists found that the last two CMEs had merged into one expecting to hit on August 5 at 10am UTC (which is a perfect 2 am here in Seattle!).
I waited with baited breath for the evening to arrive so I could plan my photographic attack. Previously, I've headed to Clearwater, Snohomish and Arlington to escape the Seattle light dome. However, around 9:30pm, much to my dismay, it clouded up. Unbelievable! I was livid! My search for spots extended to eastern washington for clear skies. My old clear sky island once again: Cle Elum.
Damn you Seattle weather!
Now, it was up to watching the various space weather data sites for signs of an impact (listed below). Hours passed. Nothing. 2am arrived and passed. Nothing! I finally called it a night at 3am just knowing it would hit as soon as I hit the pillow.
The actual impact occurred at 12 noon the next day, however, the strength (Kp = 9) indicated that it should linger into the night for North America. Huzzah! But no, still clouds here in Western WA! At about 10am I IM'd my brother-in-law in Yakima who said that he could see them, "green and bright". 15 minutes later, C andI were on the road to Cle Elum airport. I had picked that spot as a good chance of having the widest view with fewest trees.
My intution was correct, as we arrived, a faint curtain was visible to the NW with our unadjusted eyes. However, as the minutes passed, it soon passed into a hazy, camera-only display, and eventually faded entirely after about an hour.
However, the trip was not for nothing. At leat five overlapping minor meteor showers are occuring and the dark skies of the site really brought out the Milky Way. It was a nice evening of stargazing and meteor counting.
Useful Aurora-watching links:
- NOAA / Space Weather Prediction Center, 3-day environment graph (Kp is the key)
- POES Activity Oval
- Canadian Space Science Data Portal - Realtime Auroral Oval
Here were the data plots for this storm: