Monday, March 18, 2013

Northern lights

Last time I've seen the northern lights I was on the ferry on my way to Germany - two years ago. I was terribly disappointed last season when I didn't manage to see any show at all and I was rather worried that this season it might be the same. (In Finland the nights are not dark enough for star/aurora gazing after mid-April.) Yesterday, though, I noticed that the aurora radars were quite active before the sunset. I kept an eye on them, since I know the situation might change very fast, in both directions. When the next hour with decent activity started I packed my camera and headed for the lake nearby (it's still frozen) to the spot where I had been observing the comet Panstarrs the last couple of days.

What resulted was one of the best aurora shows I've ever seen in my life. I remember one really good one from a couple of solar cycles ago and one from my childhood in our holiday home, but for this I had really prepared since I was on the spot right from the start when it became dark enough. Finnish Meteorological Insitute has aurora alerts and when the magnetic field gets active in Nurmijärvi, which is about the same latitude as Tampere, it is seen as bars in their watch and as possible auroras, too. As seen from the graph, the bar went through the roof around eight o'clock. Normally they say it's "active" when it's 30. So, 570 would promise pretty good auroras, I'd say.

Nurmijärvi aurora alert 17.3.2013

When that show at 8 pm started I danced, cursed, shouted, screamed (very typical of me when I see auroras or meteors) and took shitloads of photos. Yes, I was very happy. (More than 25 years of amateur astronomy still hasn't made me love it any less.) When I started to freeze and walked home I mentioned pretty much all the passersby that there is an amazing aurora show just going on. They were happy that I said that since it's hard to pick behind the streetlights.

It was amazing.

Some of the aurora I saw 17.3.2013

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