Helping share the love of the northern lights!

Category: Amazing Aurora Updates

Fixing Bugs and Crashes

As we move well out of aurora season here in Alaska, I have begun working studiously on the next iteration of the Amazing Aurora app. This next version should, in theory, be better for Android users. Why Android users you ask? Well, there have been a TON of crashes with version 6 of the app and I believe I know why. I won’t bore you with all of the technical details, but it looks like it was a simple oversight in the programming aspect of the app. I will get a test version out to my beta test team in the next month or so to see if crashes still occur.

Crashes in the Android app over the past year

I also have a few bugs to work on within the app. As mentioned earlier, there is a location bug that seems to put people in Minot, North Dakota. I believe I have a viable solution to fix that and will, hopefully, work to phase out the default North Dakota map dot often seen on aurora reports. I am hopeful all of these changes will help make the app run smoother and provide a better experience for everyone!

Minor App Tweaks on March 13

I made a few minor “under the hood” app tweaks on Sunday, March 13, 2022, based on feedback from a user. The 3-day Kp forecast was off by quite a bit due to the parser failing to appropriately correct for the G1 and G2 conditions SWPC put in their forecast. That was adjusted and all appears to be working well now. If you notice any discrepancies, please give me feedback so I can look into you. I have also added the time that the server last checked the SWPC forecast, so users can now see the currency of the data for the 3-day forecast in the app.

You might notice that the times (at least for Alaska) start at 1am instead of 12am. This is due to the daylight savings time change and its relation to Universal Coordinated Time (UTC). This is expected, so don’t be alarmed by it. It lines up with the SWPC forecast where 09 UTC is 1am here in Alaska. If you are in other parts of the world and see issues, please let me know so I can investigate. However, it appears that all should be good!

A couple of tweaks were also made to the legend and the SWPC status indicators. I added an explanation for the N/A in the solar wind data. Basically, if data was not received that matches the 5, 15, 30, 45, or 60-minute windows, it will display N/A meaning there is no data to display. This happens from time to time but is most common when there is a SWPC outage and no data is received for a prolonged period of time. The status indicator for the solar wind was fixed, as it was stuck on red due to a minor miscalculation of values. It should be good to go now!

Those are the latest updates to the app! I am looking forward to working on the next iteration over the summer to bring some more refinements to the subscribe user settings; namely, the HPI notifications!

Fixing Location Issues with Version 7

While it is not a showstopper, I have noticed a LOT of reports coming in from Minot, North Dakota. The coordinates for Minot are used as a default location in the event the app is unable to lock onto a user’s location when using the app. I suspect that some users are opening the app really quick, going to the report tab, and not giving the app a chance to grab the correct location prior to submitting an aurora activity report. The summer months will allow me more time to investigate and correct this behavior. Other than that, it appears the app is working as expected!

Planning for Version 7

Version 7 of the app is in the beginning development stages. Work will pick up during the off-season and I plan to release it in late July or early August, prior to the beginning of the next aurora season. One big item in the works, for subscribed members, is the ability to receive alerts for the hemispheric power index (HPI).

The HPI is an excellent indicator of aurora potential, in general. It is not specific to a location like the favorable conditions calculation the app uses. Although it is a general index, many “chasers” watch this value to make a decision on whether or not to go out after dark. Once you know the best value for your area, it is an excellent value to follow. For instance, here in the Anchorage area, an HPI value of 20-25 GW is generally good to see some activity. We have even seen them with values as low as 15, but not reliably. The HPI alert will allow you to choose a value between 10-100 for alerting you of when the app sees the value you want in order to alert you.

Another option I am looking to add to version 7 is the ability to choose the distance of aurora sightings a user would like to be alerted for. The current value is 30 miles, meaning that you would be alerted if anyone within 30 miles of your location reports aurora activity. While this is great in areas where a lot of people use the app, it is not conducive to those in regions without many users. Thus, the plan is to open this up to a longer range and, potentially, to be alerted of all aurora sightings. So, stay tuned to that!

Those are the plans for version 7 as of right now! It will be a great off-season of tweaking and updating to keep Amazing Aurora, well, AMAZING!

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