Aurora No Show

This time the CME was aimed directly at Earth! Sometimes this type of event triggers strong auroras that form farther south of the pole than usual. If we’re lucky we get to see it.

The Aurora Borealis is a no show over Connecticut tonight after the possibility was raised it might be seen. We know the conditions conducive to aurora, but not the exact mix necessary at any given minute. Aurora forecasting skill today is where weather forecasting was 30 years ago or so it seems to me.

I’ve been following the word “aurora” on Twitter. In 2012 that’s probably the best way to search for this though you’d make it easier if you stopped using it as a name or giving it as a name to towns!.

The trigger for tonight’s chance was a Coronal Mass Ejection. Every time I say that phrase the person on the receiving end lets me know it sounds vaguely obscene.

Though it travels at a high rate of speed a CME is much slower than the speed of light. We knew it was coming.

CME describes the forceful release of energy into space. Most times these CMEs are aimed elsewhere. Our satellites observe, but it’s just curiosity. Misses leave us unaffected.

This time the CME was aimed directly at Earth! Sometimes this type of event triggers strong auroras that form farther south of the pole than usual. If we’re lucky we get to see it.

I’ve only seen an aurora once, but it was amazing! I was living in North Olmsted, Ohio. It was August 2, 1972. Thank you Internet.

Solar astronomers reported that Active Region 331 had produced three powerful flares during a span of 15 hours. The intensity of these flares, classified as ‘X2’ were near the limits of the scale used to classify solar flare X-ray power. The next day, the Pioneer 9 spacecraft detected a shock wave from the first of these flares at 11:24 UT accompanied by a sudden change in the solar wind speed from 350 to 585 km/sec.

Space weather forecasters at the Space Environment Services Center in Boulder Colorado issued an alert that predicted a major storm would arrive at the earth between August 4. They were not disappointed. Armed with vastly improved technology and scientific ideas, they were able to realize William Ellis’s 1882 dream of predicting a solar storm. At 4:00 UT, aurora were seen simultaneously from Illinois to Colorado and the events of this storm were widely reported in major international newspapers.

At 22:30 UT AT&T reported a voltage surge of 60 volts on their coaxial telephone cable between Chicago and Nebraska. Another 30 minute shutdown of phone service on Bell’s cable link between Plano, Illinois and Cascade, Iowa was also attributed to the storm. Both the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corporation and Canadian National Telecommunications reported that the current surges in their lines had damaged components in their system ranging from noise filters to ‘carbon blocks’ Taxi drivers received orders from distant cities and were forced to turn down lucrative transcontinental fares!

Paul Linger of the Denver Zoo said that the disruption of the Earth’s magnetic field by the storms would disorient pigeons who depend upon the field for their sense of direction.

My friend Joel Alexander now flying JetCopter760 at WJR Detroit was visiting.

We stood in the parking lot in front of my apartment and stared over the building and to the north. In the sky was a shimmering green luminescent curtain. There’s no way to describe how surreal that was.

I know they’re harmless now. I knew they were harmless then. It still scared the living s**t out of me–seriously!

So, obviously we all get a little excited thinking there might be another once in my lifetime opportunity.

I’ll keep looking.

7 thoughts on “Aurora No Show”

  1. Are Aurora visible from commercial aircraft flying at 35K? (above the clouds)? Or do you need to be viewing the horizon from a low angle?

  2. Hi Geoff, I’ve been lucky to see it twice in Ct, One when I was very little, and then a few years ago, I always look skyward when I hear we might have a possibility of seeing any,

  3. I grew up in Maine, and I have very clear memories of my dad waking me up and taking me outside to watch the Northern Lights several times over the course of my childhood. It is absolutely eerie.

    That August 1972 night matches up with the stories my sister tells of being at our camp (also in Maine) and the sky being a curtain of pulsating green. I was too little to remember that, but the timing is right, that must’ve been it.

  4. I think it’s a bit odd that I also lived in North Olmsted Ohio (Go Eagles!) and saw the northern lights the same night you did. My brother’s friend called and woke up our household. I remember sitting out on the hood of the car long after everyone else had gone back inside knowing that it was probably a once in a lifetime experience for me. It was and I still remember every detail now.

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