Beginners Guide To Aurora
Here is a very quick beginners guide to explaining aurora
Aurora = The Northern (or Southern) lights/ Aurora Borealis/ Australis
Usually seen near the poles of the Earth, but can be seen further South in the UK or USA.
So how and where does it come from?
“Coronal Mass Ejection” = A load of solar material hurled out of the Sun. A big one can contain billions of tons of “plasma”.
Plasma hits Earth’s “magnetosphere” causing “geomagnetic storms” = Aurora, also known as the Northern or Southern lights.
Geomagnetic storms are measured using a scale called the “Planetary Kp index” ranging from 1 to 9. 1 being low and 9 being a very heavy storm.
The higher the Kp index the higher the likelihood of Aurora and the further South it can be seen. 5 = Scotland 8+ Southern England.
Geomagnetic storms and aurora are very unpredictable and forecasts can be very vague, we don’t know the intensity or where the aurora can be seen from until it hits.
Here is a link to NOAA Space Weather Scales
To watch the aurora, you only need your eyes, just like watching meteors or the International Space Station. Look North and low down on the horizon, it may be faint at first.
We’re planning a trip to Iceland soon, any suggestions for best season or locations?
(Non-adventurous tourist amateur skygazers!)
Best season is in the winter, but aurora isn’t predictable. We usually get a day or two warning if it’s going to happen
Anytime from late October to early April; though I’d suggest Nov to March.
Iceland is full of locations that are accessible by road. we went in April, hired a car and only booked accommodation a day in advance. That way we could follow the best, clearest weather. this approach is best out of season.
Good locations include Pingvellir & Geysir, also the iceberg lagoon and Reykjanes (North West), but there’re many others too.
We had Aurora every night, but needed to wait for some time; so be patient and wrap up warm. Be warned though, we are approaching a solar minimum, which means big displays are less frequent – though it doesn’t feel like that at the moment.
If only I had the funds to stay in Canada/USA long enough to see these spectacular light shows.
But am hoping to travel and stay in the North of Scotland for a month in the hope of seeing the Aurora.