Auroras delight night owls

Photo: Auroral display over Lake Erie. Photo by Christopher Christie.

Auroral display over Lake Erie. Photo by Christopher Christie.

A group of CAA members took advantage of beautiful night sky conditions to set up and observe from Medina County Parks’ Letha House Park — site of our Observatory. Among them was Christopher Christie. “I got home about 2:00 AM after a great, but cold night out at Letha House” he wrote. “I was starting to wind down around 3:00 AM when I noticed the Kp index was kicking up as the solar wind increased, it wasn’t much at the time but I kept an eye on it.”

He kept tabs on the situation. “About 3:30 the KP was up at 6, so I went to my front porch and didn’t see anything, but checked some of the other sites I use to check on the aurora and one showed a possibility of some moving in. So I went to the lake shore just inside Rocky River, and, well after about an hour and 175 images or so I was very happy.” We’re pretty pleased to see his results.

Auroral display over Lake Erie. White light at left-horizon is a passing boat. Photo by Christopher Christie.

It turns out Christie had tapped into the beginning of a big geomagnetic storm. By Saturday afternoon SpaceWeather.com was reporting that the storm continued to light the skies over nighttime areas of the globe and was expected to be active through Saturday night. Of course Saturday night brought clouds and rain to the Greater Cleveland Area. Still, it was a noteworthy event.

SpaceWeather.com explained, “The ongoing storm was triggered by a knot of south-pointing magnetism from the sun. During the early hours of Oct. 13, the knot bumped into Earth’s magnetic field, opening a crack in our planet’s magnetosphere. Solar wind poured in to fuel the auroras.”

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I am Webmaster for the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association. I also participate in outreach programming in public observing and occasional presentations on behalf of the CAA and a local college.
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