The problem with aurora hunting is with today’s technology we still can’t know definitively what is happening 93 million miles away. From the start NOAA and NASA WAS-ENLIL had two different trajectories that they predicted storms would go. NASA had it skate to the right of us, and NOAA the left with a difference of up to 30 degrees. Not a great way to start out. I think part of the problem is we are started into the cycle with processes happening that we have never experienced before and it making some major changes in how the electromagnetic current is functioning. We are going through a magnetic reversal here on earth, where in theory our magnetosphere should be getting weaker and solar storms should have greater effect. We are also started into Solar Maximum. Question is , are things behaving like scientists predicted or is mother nature having a good laugh at their expience.
For those that haven’t followed solar science for very long I will take a moment to explain. Solar cycles typically increase and decrease sunspot numbers in 11 year cycles. With the increase in sunspots we see more frequently solar storms and more frequent auroras. Every 400 years or so, we experience what is call a solar Grand Minimum, where basically sun takes a nap and decreases sunspots and power out put for some where around 70 years. Solar Grand Minimum is often a time we see very radical weather changes. Maunder minimum recorded some coldest consistent temperatures in Europe and was dubbed a Mini Ice Age. Of course that brought a host of issues with it, crop shortages, wide spread diseases and changing political climates.
Now, back in start of this last solar minimum scientist were saying that we were going into grand minimum, there were rather in a tither about it and guessing at what can happen. Deeper into that solar minimum, they changed their minds to say we might get one more very weak cycle before we hit grand minimum. Neither has materialized, as this cycle is started out fast and with greater activity than they thought possible. So now whispers are this could be a much bigger cycle than expected, with worries we could get a major solar storm that will cause major problems. Leads me to think we are missing a major portion of this dance between sun and earth. Currently when we should be seeing more drastic effects due to our weakened magnetosphere, we are actually experiencing a phenomena where storms are passing to either side of us and we seem to be sitting in a protected valley where we are getting slight activity, but are being spared the huge radiation storms that could harm us. Is there a more complex pattern or process happening that we don’t yet understand? Remember, we did not have technology the last time earth poles flip flopped, nor did we really have any written records to go off as this only happens every 200,000 to 300,000 years. we can study geological data on earth, but we really have no idea what happen with the interaction between sun and earth. Scientists are guessing at what happened based on what they find with rocks of the planet. Looking for things like radioactive materteral and changes in vegetation. However without written records, and observations, we have only that go on. Lets face it man is notorious for getting things wrong.
Why am I saying this? Well because there has to be bigger picture to how things interact. Beings this going to be the first time in human history to study this. I suggest we get a group together that collects data, reads lots of different reports and take the time to pull together the bigger picture in ways that maybe scientists are forgetting to do. Since Science studies often are very isolative and study parts of the picture. If you are interested in being a part of doing that, become a member of website and lets get the science group going. Lets challenge ourselves to find what is being missed and see if we can’t find a better way of predicting Auroras and what will happen.
Now for the question you are all wanting to know, where is the solar storm? Lets begin with there was 14 C class flares and 3 M class flares. Now remember I said both NOAA and NASA had things passing around us with only trailing edges hitting us. But men predict and mother nature laughs. neither it seems were right so far. Looking at Goes-16 Magnetometers we can see that machine gun patters of flares causing spikes.
Looking back at the flares that happened starting on the 21st, you can see we have a pattern of little bumps in high B class range before we popped into C class range. There were 8 flares before we hit the first M Class flare. There is a 24 hour spread to this. Question is how effected will be by those and are we seeing a reflection in Goes 16 Magnetometer that mirrors that pattern. Is the storm just moving slowly or are just getting a slight brush from activity? Will some of the stronger flares catch up to small flares, to increase their power and combine to create less spikes
Short term forecast shows we still should be getting major storm impact for few hours yet. From my experience as an Aurora Hunter, I know these storms happen on their own time. It is a frequent issue that forecasts are wrong with these types of events. I have seen them both move faster and much slower than what anyone predicts. So I would not say loose hope just yet. According to what I am seeing we are just now starting to have that sudden onset that NOAA has in its WAS-ENLIL predictions. some 12 hours later than they predicted. Means that flares though they looked big and fast , were not as fast as what they thought they should be. Which is to our benefit because we will have clear skies in northern regions tonight which gives us a better chance at seeing what is there. I am thinking we might see the big spike later this afternoon and possibly this evening.
We did have a phi angle shift about 24 hours ago, that means there was a magnetic connection to earth and sun. but it really doesn’t act like we have even started to see CME activity just yet, based on this view. Below are current conditions of Density and Wind speed, both are just starting to show a any spike from impacts. This could be anyone of the 8 C class flares that happen before the 3 M class flares. Again, at least 12 after what was predicted. This could all end up happening through out today and we might calm by tonight, or this could just be the B class flares or first C class flare hitting us now. Time will tell. If we are lucky, we will have 8 to 12 hours before it really lets loose, which would be perfect timing. Also remember we have a lunar eclipse tonight. Though doubtful you will get them in the same image. Moon is far to our south right now, at least 45 degrees from auroras.
So this is your alert warning, you need to be in the ready, Battery charged, cards check, bags packed, review your settings and be ready. Tonight should have plenty to shoot, you should get out there and try tonight if you have clear skies. Pack your Patience as well. Take note these are not coronal holes with extended steady winds and auroras will behave differently than the long lasting coronal holes. These are brief flares, this means things are going to move in waves of sudden impact spikes. They won’t last long, Maybe minutes of high KP activity. Hence if you don’t get out there , you are likely going to miss the best activity because by the time numbers change in apps, it could already be fading. Watch apps for changes that indicate it time to go , such as that phi angle flip flopping, to indicate impact is coming, or seeing increase in Winds, Density, and BZ. Once you are out there, be patient people, don’t get over excited or be in rush, remember the pattern of the flares does go up and down. We are not sure if all of them will hit us, or how many will proceed the bigger M Class flares. We are not sure if some will be slow and have faster ones catch up with them in a scoop shovel event. There is 93 million miles of questions out there. You are just going to have to take it as it comes and be patient.