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Aurora Visual Observation

Visual Observing Report
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#1 SaturnRacer32

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 07:58 AM

We had a nice Aurora display a few weeks back here in Missouri, at 38 degrees Latitude.  My best visual  description is a white haze deeper than the Milky Way, with pillars and structure, and a hint of green and pink.    But visually, not even close to the pictures we took.   

 

I wanted to solicit comments to determine at what latitude do the lights visually approach our pictures?    i realize there are so many variables, and I also realize that someone will say " I saw them in Florida and there were just as good as my pictures."    However, that is probably an exception.   

 

So I'd like to here from a large number of people, who can perhaps share the following information with the group.

1) Your Latitude 

2) How many Auroras you have seen

3)  On a visual scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best,  how did you rank the visual effect as compared to the photographs taken?    I'm sure this info may vary for each aurora, ,but you may share this for each aurora.  

 

My goal is to set an expectation for the general public.    I heard from people who said they did not see it, but they only saw 'Clouds" to which i said thats it !!

 

 



#2 jiblet65

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:26 AM

I didn't get to see this latest display but my wife and I got to see them three different nights on the south end of Iceland. We probably would have had better views from the north but it was cloudy while we were up there. What I can tell you is visually we could see greens and blues but some photos my wife took showed red colors which we didn't see with the naked eye. That said the pictures don't do justice to the experience and my guess is the farther south you are the camera will pick up more than what you would see just looking up.



#3 skins

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 08:52 AM

I used to live in northern Alberta (latitude 58 N)  and saw the aurora many times, but one time still lives in my memory 30 yrs later... Driving home from a job at 3AM, and it brought us to a stop in the road...because the sky had just exploded!   Tired as we were, we just sat there for probably  a 1/2 hr, just dumbstruck.  

pictures could not have done it justice because it was all about the dancing and the speed of the brilliant colors.  bright enough it was casting colored shadows on the snow covered ground.    

On a scale of 1- 10, it was a solid 20.  

 

After moving further south, I went out for a few years, hoping to see it again. What we get is the watered down version.  I dont bother any more. Im pretty sure that to see it in all its glory, you need to be closer to the source.   

 

There is a reason folks travel to alaska for just that reason.  Its soooo WORTH it!  


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#4 TayM57

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 10:56 AM

I'm at 45°N, and what I saw visually from a class 3 (gray to blue zone) site is exactly what OP saw, though my son and I saw strong hints of green closer to the horizon to the north, with varying hints of orange/red throughout the night. The orange/red hints we saw tended to be in the westerly direction, and close to zenith.

 

Our phones could see strong colors, but visually, we saw hints of hues. Green was definitely the strongest color we could see visually. I would say the greens tended to be lower closer to the horizon, and the reds/orange tended to be higher up closer to zenith.

 

But yes, one day I do want to travel to Alaska to see the auroras in their full splendor, visually.



#5 B 26354

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 11:14 AM

Over the years, I've described my sighting countless times to people; most recently to my C-Nights good friend Terra Nova, after this most recent display -- which was not naked-eye visible here. In an adaptation of part of what I wrote to her....

 

The only time I've ever seen the aurora was on a summer night in the late '50s or early '60s. It was about 1am or so, and I was in my parents' back yard (in SW Pennsylvania, ~40° north latitude), observing with my little EQ-mounted 4.25" Spacek Newtonian, when the entire sky just suddenly exploded with color. Big patches of red and green, huge bursts of "fireworks"-type streamers... and most mind-blowing of all, the rainbow-colored "curtains-waving-in-the-breeze" effect. I immediately ran out front and started running up and down the street, screaming at the top of my lungs for people to come out of their houses and see what was happening... knowing that this would be the only time in their entire lives that they would see something like this. Of course, the ones who did come out, all thought I was completely crazy... until they looked up!   lol.gif

 

The colors were incredibly vivid and bright, and had it been winter, as in "skins" post, I have no doubt that I too would have seen "colored shadows on the snow-covered ground".

 

After nearly seven decades of visual astronomical pursuit... to this day, that auroral display remains etched in my mind. And never yet having managed to witness a total eclipse of the sun... it was far-and-away the most incredible thing I have ever seen.

 

biggrin.png


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#6 Sketcher

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 11:21 AM

For latitude -- Let's just say somewhere in Montana

 

For number of auroras seen -- Countless, seriously, I've no idea how many I've seen in the 45 years or so that I've lived in my "seriously dark" rural Montana location.  It helps greatly to have no light-pollution and no light-trespass -- especially along my north horizon where most of the auroras that I've seen have been limited to.

 

For visual scale:  Every aurora is different.  I would rate my visual impression higher than any of the photographic impressions.  When it comes to colors, the photographs showed much more.  This last exceptional aurora did, at times, show some strong, easy to see color in isolated areas, but mostly, little color was noticed visually.  The photographs fail when it comes to adequately portraying the fact that visually this aurora encompassed my entire sky, from horizon to horizon in all directions.  That's something that can't be adequately shown in a photograph -- unless, perhaps, the photo was displayed on the ceiling of a planetarium.  Also, visually, one sees motion in many auroral displays.  Some motions tend to be very slow, but other motions can be amazingly rapid -- second by second dramatic changes sometimes occur.  For that, video would have to be used.  At times, this aurora was very slow to change.  At other times very rapid changes took place.  A static photo can't show such things.

 

I was at the exact same location for the "great" March 1989 aurora.  That aurora, for me, from my location, was visually more dramatic, more intense, with much more in the way of visually visible colors -- more variety in the colors seen as well as more intense (brighter) naked-eye colors.  That 1989 aurora also covered my entire sky, but that aurora included patches of dark, starry sky between various auroral features.  This more recent aurora didn't have those patches of sky that were untouched by the aurora, and those patches of sky added to the beauty of the 1989 aurora -- for me.

 

Some auroras have colors that can look just as good to the eye as they do in the photos, but many show little to no color to the eye, while showing plenty of color to the camera.  There's a tremendous amount of variety when it comes auroras.


Edited by Sketcher, 19 May 2024 - 11:35 AM.

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#7 Dave Mitsky

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Posted 19 May 2024 - 11:22 AM

As far as colors go, our eyes are more sensitive to green hues than red when dark adapted.

https://www.ncbi.nlm...port=objectonly



#8 gwd

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Posted 20 May 2024 - 11:54 PM

I was on a ship up near Juneau and for some reason the sky was clear except for the Aurora.    The ships lights interfered but we could see reddish orange haze on either side of pulsating green streamers fading at Zenith.   I don't know if the geomagnetic storm had anything to do with it but the internet connection from the ship went down that night  and was down or unusable for the rest of the trip.   It was the only cloud free night we experienced.   When we went ashore the local Alaskans said it was the brightest they had seen in years.    I told my wife not to bother trying to take a photo and just enjoy it because I thought the camera wouldn't capture it.   I'm in the doghouse now- other passengers got to post their Aurora photos on Facebook.     

 

I think in 1957 my first exposure to looking at the night sky happened when we came home late on night and my parents told me to look at the colors in the sky.   I think I was too sleepy and just said I saw it so I could get back to bed.   I remember it as planting the idea in my head that there are interesting things to see in the night sky.    



#9 David Knisely

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 02:28 PM

We had a nice Aurora display a few weeks back here in Missouri, at 38 degrees Latitude.  My best visual  description is a white haze deeper than the Milky Way, with pillars and structure, and a hint of green and pink.    But visually, not even close to the pictures we took.   

 

I wanted to solicit comments to determine at what latitude do the lights visually approach our pictures?    i realize there are so many variables, and I also realize that someone will say " I saw them in Florida and there were just as good as my pictures."    However, that is probably an exception.   

 

So I'd like to here from a large number of people, who can perhaps share the following information with the group.

1) Your Latitude 

2) How many Auroras you have seen

3)  On a visual scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best,  how did you rank the visual effect as compared to the photographs taken?    I'm sure this info may vary for each aurora, ,but you may share this for each aurora.  

 

My goal is to set an expectation for the general public.    I heard from people who said they did not see it, but they only saw 'Clouds" to which i said thats it !!

1. Latitude 40 degrees 16'  north.

2. Probably somewhere in the range of 20 to 30 in total (first saw one in 1972).

3. For color, the visual for this last display on May 10-11, 2024 would be a 6 out of 10 when compared to most images, as the color was quite visible at times but not as brilliant as in the images we saw.  Most people have trouble seeing color at lower light levels, so for at least some of them, it is expected to see something that looks like colorless clouds.  As we all know, astronomical photographs often greatly enhance the color over what is seen visually.  That having been said, I can see some color in auroral displays (mostly a pale bluish-green, with occasional faint reds and a few purples with the most active displays).  The colors are usually somewhat pastel, but they are there.  What many images don't capture is the movement in aurorae, which is often very fast and stunning.  Many of the fainter and less prominent aurorae I have seen over the years appeared nearly colorless.  Clear skies to you.  


Edited by David Knisely, 21 May 2024 - 02:30 PM.


#10 robbistron

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 03:29 PM

1. Fairbanks, Alaska. Latitude 64.5 deg N
2. One night of Kp factor 3. Full moon, about 40 degrees elevation. We observed the lights in the West direction, opposite to the moon.
3. Observed them for about 3 hours and the intensity vastly varied. Visually it was as good as the pictures, but the only thing was that the pictures captured reds but all we saw was green. Also, the pictures turned out to be brighter since the exposure was about 10s. So, I would say about a 7 when comparing visual to images.
 
On our way back, there was a pretty 'dance' of the lights - very quick fluctuation of shape and I captured that on video which turned out to be very close to what we saw visually. I would rate it 9/10. Attaching a frame from video for reference.

IMG_4315.jpg

 

When we reached our Airbnb which was very close to downtown and had plenty of lights in the neighborhood, we could see white streaks of lights that looked like clouds. Clicking pictures of it brought in the colors but visually it was just white streaks. So 3/10.


Edited by robbistron, 21 May 2024 - 03:38 PM.

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#11 Alex Swartzinski

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Posted 21 May 2024 - 09:12 PM

1) Your Latitude

 

43N

 

2) How many Auroras you have seen

 

This was on the rare Kp9 night, so too many to count! This was my first aurora display though. I was under skies that featured minimal light pollution on the shore of Lake Huron. I've never been at this location on a dark night (the aurora brightened the sky considerably) but I was looking out into a grey zone with a smaller city 25 miles to my south. 

 

3)  On a visual scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best,  how did you rank the visual effect as compared to the photographs taken?  

 

This is a hard one. As a visual observer, a slightly elongated smudge is exciting. I'd give it a 9 though. Everyone on that beach saw pinks and greens, especially before midnight. The pinks were more vibrant to my eye than the green. These colors were especially visible as the aurora occasionally brightened rapidly, shining brilliantly onto the water. As the display moved back north after the peak, they were pretty and ever changing, but mostly white/grey. They also got a little fainter on average

 

Unlike the photos, the dynamic nature of this event was captured by gazing up with the naked eye. Looking away for two seconds changed the texture and shapes considerably. It was truly an unforgettable night! 

 

post-373950-0-63168300-1715564508.jpg

 

post-373950-0-74646800-1715564638.jpg


Edited by Alex Swartzinski, 21 May 2024 - 09:15 PM.

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#12 Urban Uraniborg

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 07:51 PM

1&2) At how many latitudes have you seen the Aurora?

 

         When                                            Where

?/?/1998  Red Aurora                33° N Central Alabama

7/?/2000   Bastille Day Storms  50° N  Ontario Canada 

7/?/2001  Sub storm                  50° N Ontario Canada 

10/31/2003 Halloween Storm    38° N  Southern Illinois 

6/18/2020    STEVE                    45° N  Oortland Oregon 

5/10/2024    G5 Storm                45°N  Oortland Oregon

 

 

3)  On a visual scale of 1-10, with 10 being the best,  how did you rank the visual effect as compared to the photographs taken?

 

The swift changes in structure and hue shifts(of gas altitude) cannot really be captured on camera. ISO and exposure time give something different than the eye absorbs in real time. The Storm on May 10th was the first Auroral Storm I ever took images of. 
In ranking the displays I have witnessed, this year’s display would tie for a third place with one of the Ontario occasions. First being the Halloween Storm(10 out of 10). It didn’t last as long as this one(38° to 45° North) but displayed the most vibrant colors and fluidity of structure. Perhaps witnessing the Aurora from the land of Magnetic Zero has different structural effects?

 

G5 Geomagnetic Storm
Album: STEVE & Aurora
17 images
0 comments

 
 
Geomagnetic Storm

 

 

Edited by Urban Uraniborg, 25 May 2024 - 11:28 AM.


#13 N-1

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Posted 24 May 2024 - 08:45 PM

Here are a couple of realtime videos of the most recent event. Taken from NZ at 44° South (about 52°S geomagnetic latitude). Ignoring the grain & sensor noise, which is mostly small-scale, the other shapes and movements are a reasonable depiction of the brighter part of what we saw. However, by eye, fainter features, almost all the way to the opposite horizon, were seen. Colours were more subtle than in the video, but visible.

 

https://vimeo.com/949858584

 

https://vimeo.com/949871702


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