Auroral Forecasts and Other Fickle Things…

Not at all pleased I missed what my neighbor described as an ‘awesome’ show of the aurora late last night; its significant that she’s lived up here for over fifty years and in that time viewed a number of truly spectacular shows.  I’m dialed into the auroral forecasts produced by the UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks) and had heard of Tuesday’s ejection of a lot of stellar matter; because of this I checked their forecast for Wednesday and saw a rating of just ‘1’ – said scale is rated 0 through 9 with the higher numbers indicating a greater likelihood of stronger auroral activity – and in addition said if there was any activity it would only be visible in the low northern sky in Talkeetna.  Because I’m surrounded by tall boreal forest I decided it wasn’t worth arising around 23:00 to check for activity.  Don’t ask me why but it seems that so much auroral activity, at least in the northern hemisphere, takes place between 22:30 and 01:00.  To then learn today while briefly shopping at the local grocery/convenience store that last night’s display had been ‘awesome’ was very disappointing as I love the aurora and intend to try to catch them on my DSLR and my video camera.

This same website is forecasting a ‘3’ – ‘moderate’ level activity – for this evening with the chance to see the activity directly overhead in this area.  My alarm clock is already set and my cameras charged; I’ve even cleared an area on the back porch for tripod placement.  At least the weather appears to be cooperating with the forecast calling for clear skies; in addition the moon will not rise until 00:41 in this area so we should have the dark skies needed to really enjoy the aurora.  I have come to truly enjoy night sky gazing up here on cold, clear nights as with no light pollution and clear skies there are more stars than I ever imagined possible and if I stare at the sky for even just a few minutes I’ll eventually see a meteorite blazing by.  With all this said it’s still a real crap shoot as to whether I’ll see anything; often its tough to stay awake for a couple of hours largely watching the sky when it’s around midnight.  In addition I see the lows tonight will be dropping into the minus single digits.  While this definitely helps one remain awake it also decreases the amount one can spend outdoors; thankfully my place has many large windows from which I have good views of the western and northwestern skies once I clear the local tree tops.

It occurs to me this is yet another example of this amazing location ‘molding’ me to its ways; I’ve always been a sky watcher but much more in daylight as I watch clouds and other conditions for a clue as to the upcoming weather.  In addition I love to look for atmospheric anomalies like sun dogs, sun pillars and similar.  But Alaska has charmed me with her incredibly dark night skies alive with millions of hard white pin points of light.  I’m learning to recognize not just the major constellations – I’ve been able to do that since a child – but now many of the less obvious constellations along with the planets.  For the first time I’m beginning to ‘feel’ the lunar rhythms and be aware of where I am with respect to the lunar cycle.  All this engenders a true sense of being ‘one’ with this incredible natural world just as does observing the myriad of wildlife that visits my little piece of the huge boreal forest that extends for hundreds of miles.  It’s very easy to really become immersed in this ‘natural world’ and as I do so more and more I find I have less and less interest in technology and all ‘artificial’ things.  Without question I still favor technically oriented things like electricity, broadband connectivity, a septic field and a well pump but my dependence upon satellite TV and radio is slowly diminishing.  And to be honest I’m very much ‘okay’ with this trend..!

3 thoughts on “Auroral Forecasts and Other Fickle Things…

  1. Yes it is a matter of right place at the right time or….. your daughter can come banging on your cabin door and drag you out to watch the light show you would never see because you are watching some DVD rerun. Yup she was right second best I have seen since 95 and my danged camera continues to act like there is nothing in the sky but blackness!

  2. Cathy Crowder

    I was beginning to wonder if you had been able to witness and stellar shows in the night sky. Pics from Norway with solar activities have been amazing.

    • Hey Cathy – I did see one very weak display back in December; at first I thought it was just a bit of haze until I really stared at it for a minute. It was very pale blue and had that ‘curtain blowing in the wind’ effect. I’m running out of time to catch these displays as its getting lighter earlier and staying light now until almost 19:30! Within another month or a bit more UAF will stop producing forecasts until next September. Just gotta keep aware of the solar activity and when there is some pray the night skies remain clear and the moon is below the horizon!!

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