Thursday, September 15, 2005
Did I mention it was cloudy?
Image credit, BOM
I found your blog by searching for solar flares and Australia and Septemebr 2005. I know nothing about astronomy but I find it all very fascinating.
I was wondering if you can tell me if the auroral storm can be seen without a telescope, and if so, where in Australia it can be seen from. I'm in Geelong.
Your blog is very interesting, by the way, even if I don't understand most of it! :)
From what I've read on this site (Ian can correct me if I'm wrong), Tasmania and southern Australia seem to get the best displays of Aurora. This makes sense when you realise that the aurora happen when energetic stuff from the sun hits our atmosphere near the magnetic poles. So, the nearer you are to a pole (north or south), the better the show you see. Just make sure you get away from the city lights (e.g. Melbourne) as the sky will be too bright to see the faint aurora.
Go check out Ians page with Australian/Tasmanian pictures of the aurora from back in August. That should give you an idea what to expect.
P.S. As I'm in the UK, I assumed you meant Geelong near Melbourne. My Australian geography isn't too hot.
Your Australian geography is spot on, by the way. Geelong is about 45mins south west of Melbourne.(And freezing at the moment, I might add.)
Judging by the pictures you directed me to, and other information I have gleaned from this site, the best time to see the lights is late at night. Is that correct?
Also, can solar flares directed at earth cause dramatic changes in weather? This is something I have been thinking about.
Thanks again for your help.
I'm not aware of aurora having any great impact on our weather. It is probably unlikely though, as the aurora occur about 100 to 250km above the surface. That puts them way above the region that we would associate weather with e.g. even huge storms only get to about 10-20 km high.
To put the height of aurora in perspective, the boundary with space is defined (by most people) as 100 km and the International Space Station orbits about 350 km to 460 km above the surface.
Although I think it unlikely that they affect our weather, they do affect telecommunications. Firstly, they can 'zap' the circuits in satellites and as such the satellites are usually turned away from the sun during times of activity. Particularly strong activity can also affect the ground though. The most famous example is when the powergrid over Canada and the eastern US was knocked out a few years ago.
If you go out to look, wrap up warm!
Stuart has covered most of the issues, so I'll just wish you the best in aurora spotting, as I have to rush to work. Any further questions and we will be happy to answer.
Hopefully it will be clear for the occultation of the Pleiades.