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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Aurora and Geminids Together?

Image Credit: NASA SOHO.

Well, no sooner had I said that Sunspot 930 has gone quiet, than it unleased an X 3.4 solar flare almost directly at us. The images are from the C3 camera before and after the proton storm from the flare hit SOHO.

We don't know yet if there was a coronal mass ejection, but given past events, it is highly likely that one is headed our way. So be prepared for aurora on the night of Thursday the 14th and morning of Friday the 15th. These are also the times that the Geminid meteor shower is on, so an aurora watch and meteor watch could be combined.

The areas most likely to see aurora are Tasmania, Southern New Zealand and Southern Victoria. Unfortunately, Southern Victoria and Tasmania are also battling savage bushfires, so folks there will likely be a bit preoccupied with other matters (sheesh! check the Google Earth KZM file of the fires! This will be one exhausting Christmas for many people). Let's include them in our thoughts and wish them respite. This also means that visibility is limited over most of Victoria by smoke from the fires.

The best place to look for aurora is due south, after midnight. With the Moon rising around 3 am, there is a lot of darkness to pick up aurora, dark sky sites will be best placed to see aurora. Tasmanians and New Zealanders might expect to see sheets and curtains of glimmering light, Victorians are likely to see shifting orange/red glows. Of course, due to the complex nature of the interactions between coronal mass ejections and Earths magnetic field, aurora cannot be guaranteed, we have had cases where strong flares have produced hardly a ripple (and conversely, cases where little burps have caused magnificent displays). But, with the Geminids on, its won't be a waste of time having a look

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