|By JIM THOMAS -- Soft Serve News
Auroras are difficult to predict with precision. They have stops and starts (known as sub-storms). If you are out there, you need to be patient and lucky. Here are some tools that will increase your chances. You should check them at the last minute.
REAL TIME AURORA BOREALIS PREDICTION:
Here is the prediction of storm intensity for the next few minutes (the higher the Kp number, the larger the Aurora):
The Space Environment Center's Neural Net Program Estimates that . . .in 3 minutes, the Geomagnetic Activity level (Kp number) will be 1.67 -- Quiet
in 18 minutes, the Geomagnetic Activity level (Kp number) will be 1.67 -- Quiet
in 30 minutes, the Geomagnetic Activity level (Kp number) will be 2 -- Quiet
in 45 minutes, the Geomagnetic Activity level (Kp number) will be 2 -- Quiet
(Refresh the page to update the above, it is updated on the server every 2 minutes)
(You can also get free Aurora Alerts, when a storm goes above 4 Kp, via Facebook or Twitter)
Now, find the Kp number line on one of the following maps that matches the Kp number predicted above. If you are located at or above the estimated Kp line, you are in the right spot. You might even be in luck if you are located within next lower line, but you will have to look lower on the horizon (about 20 degrees above the northern horizon). Be aware though, ground based light pollution and weather will have a greater impact at these more marginal locations.
EARTH LIGHT & MOONLIGHT POLLUTION:
Dark. Dark. Dark. It is not just about low light. You want late nightime DARK. It is important to remember the widest part of the Aurora is when the sun is on the opposite side of the earth. But you also want few competing light sources so get away from the city lights and let your eyes adjust to the darkness. The further away from those earth based light sources the better for seeing the Northern Lights. Full moons hurt a bit because they increase ambient light and darkness is best for viewing. The darker the moon, the better. Here's how the moon looks right now:
YOUR LOCAL WEATHER:
Auroras happen in the upper atmosphere, so if there is cloud cover, you are out of luck. Cold and clear are best for viewing the Aurora:
While they have seen Auroral sub-storms as far down as Cuba, realistically north is where you need to be. The stronger the Aurora the more south one can see it. Check the Kp maps (above) and the size of the aurora oval (also above).
Finally, here is a nice Aurora video I found on YouTube if you need extra motivation . . .
Drive safe -- and good luck!