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Last Post 20 Mar 2019 12:00 PM by  Kris Sigsbee
Seeing the aurora (Northern Lights)
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Jennifer
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20 Mar 2019 06:58 AM
    Have any of you seen the aurora also known as the Northern Lights? How can I see them?

    Thank you.

    >5 Answers
    Posts:13 >5 Answers

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    20 Mar 2019 09:22 AM
    Hi, there!

    Since I was a little child in Brazil, I had this dream: see the precious Auroras!
    It was only when I moved to Finland (to perform my PhD research) that I had the opportunity to see some of them... Auroras are just majestic! You gotta go to high-latitudes regions that are into (or near) the Auroral region and hope for clear skies and some geomagnetic activity. :)

    You can join other Aurora's hunters here: http://www.aurorasaurus.org/learn#causes
    Tomorrow, Dr. Liz MacDonald will give a live talk about Auroras and Aurorasaurus here. Stay tuned on the #NASASolarWeek page!
    >300 Answers
    Posts:390 >300 Answers

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    20 Mar 2019 12:00 PM
    Hi Jennifer! Yes, I have seen the northern lights. The very first time I saw the northern lights was when I was a kid growing up in northern Minnesota. During solar maximum, if there are a lot of geomagnetic storms, you can see the northern lights quite often in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Most of the time the northern lights are only visible much further north in Canada and Alaska or in Scandinavia. I had the opportunity as a graduate student to travel to the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska, where we could download data from the Fast Auroral SnapshoT (FAST) satellite in real-time, while monitoring ground magnetometer data and watching the aurora. I have also seen the aurora a couple of times in Iowa, which is considerably further south than Minnesota or Alaska. However, it is very rare to see aurora in Iowa and you can only see them during larger geomagnetic storms.

    The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has put together some guidelines to help you determine when the aurora can be seen in your location based upon the Kp index. To see the aurora in Alaska or Canada, you only need to have Kp=3, which is actually a pretty low level of geomagnetic activity. To see the aurora around Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan you need a G1 geomagnetic storm and Kp=5. Further south in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, as well as in Iowa, you are only likely to see the aurora when there is a G2 geomagnetic storm and Kp=7. To see aurora further south in places like Missouri requires a much bigger geomagnetic storm and Kp=9, which is the maximum of the Kp index! You can see the NOAA SWPC's aurora viewing tips here: https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/content/t...ng-aurora.

    Monitoring the Kp index and the NOAA SWPC yourself can be time-consuming, but social media can help alert you when a large geomagnetic storm is about to happen. The Aurorasaurus project Alessandra mentioned is a great resource for finding out if the aurora will be visible where you live. If you use Twitter, following the Aurorasaurus (@TweetAurora) is a good place to start. If you are on Facebook and live in northern Minnesota, the Great Lakes Aurora Hunter's Alerts (https://www.facebook.com/GLAHalert/), the Aurorasaurus (https://www.facebook.com/aurorasaurus.org/), and the NOAA SWPC (https://www.facebook.com/NWSSWPC/) can help.
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