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It’s Time to Kill Subscriptions

If you subscribed to the app, please use the link at the bottom of the settings screen to go to your subscriptions page and cancel your subscription. The link takes you to your respective App Store subscriptions page.

First of all, to those who supported the development of the Amazing Aurora app through the purchase of a subscription, thank you! You all are awesome and I am glad you are as excited about aurora activity as I am!

As the title says, it is time to kill the subscription portion of the Amazing Aurora app. Why, you might ask? I am a solo hobbyist who came up with a way to tell, for myself, when aurora activity was most likely to happen; and, I created an app to share it. The costs of weather and astronomical data was running about $100 per month and, well, it did not really add much to the app. My goal with subscriptions was to spread that cost out among all of the users who wanted it and, with some of the extra special features (that took a lot of programming), to help get something back for the work put in. At this point, it is getting too intensive to keep up with as the app is currently set up.

When Google and Apple make changes, things in the app have to change as well. Since I am a solo, hobbyist app developer with a full-time job, I have to find time to keep things running smoothly. The in-app purchase ability, which is what ran the subscription portion of the app, has been finicky and, as a lover of good quality, I cannot have an app that is crashing or causing problems across the board. So, with version 9, I have trimmed all of the subscription stuff out and just went back to the basic, good ol’ reliable app that Amazing Aurora started out as. Yes, there is an ad. It helps, a little.

Thank you for using Amazing Aurora! Again, if you subscribed to the app, please use the link at the bottom of the settings screen to go to your subscriptions page and cancel your subscription. I will put a donation page together to track my annual needs to run the app and track any donations paid to help me keep the app running. I am just so grateful that so many people have taken to the app and interact when the solar wind gets crazy. You all are awesome!

Alaska Cloud Outlook: April 4 – 10

I am a little late getting this posted. It’s been a busy few days! Solar activity continues to give us good chances of aurora! A filament erupted off the sun on Sunday (April 3) and is headed toward Earth. The official SWPC prediction is for impact on Wednesday (April 6) between 7am and 10am AKDT and continuing into the early morning hours of Thursday (April 7) before tailing off. We will have to wait to see what happens! The solar wind has started to taper off, based on projections, so aurora activity still remains possible but minor outside of the main auroral zone outside of the approaching CME from the filament. Fingers are crossed all across Alaska, I am sure, for a good show!

Source: NOAA/SWPC

Much of the state is currently experiencing some cloud cover. Levels vary from thick clouds across the northern quarter of the state, to just some mid to upper-level clouds across the center third, and a mix of low to upper-level clouds across the south-central portion.

Anchorage | Valdez | Soldotna | Talkeetna | Glennallen

Unfortunately, much of the week will see cloudy skies continuing to prove aurora watching difficult. The area will continue to see a mix of clouds with occasional breaks throughout the period. The best viewing conditions appear to be Friday (April 8) night into early Saturday (April 9) morning with conditions improving significantly into Sunday (April 10) morning. Thus, the best chances for viewing activity will be Friday night to Sunday morning. There is still a chance of seeing activity in the area Wednesday and Thursday, but searching for breaks in the clouds will certainly be necessary.

Fairbanks | Delta Junction | Healy | Cantwell

Clouds will be problematic for the region through much of the week. Similar to the Anchorage area, expect a mix of clouds and breaks much of the week. Wednesday and Thursday may provide some breaks to see activity. Conditions will be decent for Friday and Saturday nights with clouds returning to the area ahead of the next weather system late Saturday evening and into Sunday morning. The best night for trying to view any aurora activity appears to be Friday night. However, the chance of several breaks in the clouds Wednesday through Friday means there could be limited opportunities to see a few peeks at the lights.

Happy chasing if you are out and about! Updates, if necessary, will be provided in the comments!

Spectacular Morning on March 27!

As the Sun set across Alaska on the evening of March 26, there was not a lot of anticipation for aurora activity. The cloud forecasts for our area were indicating somewhat unfavorable conditions with a few breaks expected. Looking at the forecasts, the decision was made to head towards the Sutton, Alaska, area to try something different. The target location was Slipper Lake, just northwest of Sutton.

The roads out to Sutton were dry with just a few areas of snowmelt running across the highway. I was excited to try this new location, recommended by a friend, as it gave a new venue to capture the northern lights in. That excitement was dashed when I made it to the entrance to get into the lake. The snow on the road back to the lake was 10-14″ deep, a fallen tree was covering a small portion of the road, and there was no cell service in that area. With all of that in mind, I turned around and headed to a different location.

On the way out to Sutton, the solar wind data was not too great. The Bt, density, and speed values were elevated, but Bz had remained north much of the evening. However, as I was getting into position, the Bz began to shift south. I arrived at my chosen spot, set up my GoPro and Sony cameras, and began filming the skies around 11:15pm AKDT (photo above).

As we moved into the wee hours of March 27, aurora activity began to pick up. Eventually, the entire horizon was fraught with color. To the naked eye, the green was a bit of a brighter gray/green, but you could definitely see the gradient change as you looked further up in the sky. The red/orange was faintly visible, as was the purple color. Although they were not brilliant at the time, they really popped out on the camera. The arc really became active around 12:10am on March 27 (photo above).

The lights danced for much of the night, off and on, as we sat under the stars. At one point, a magnificent fireball streaked across the sky (photo above); one of many shooting stars we saw throughout the night. As the morning progressed, activity picked up until the aurora activity drifted overhead. The corona we saw (photo below), looking directly overhead, was simply amazing!

Saturday night was one of the better aurora displays I have seen yet this season. I am excited for this week, as two coronal mass ejections are inbound and expected to arrive Wednesday into Thursday. I usually do not venture out during the week, but I plan to keep an eye on the data and clouds this week to potentially chase some lights during the week. We will just have to wait and see what happens!

Alaska Cloud Outlook: March 28 – April 3

Solar activity will certainly be a topic of discussion during the week! There have been three M-class flares today (March 28) with two associated coronal mass ejections (CME). These are expected to start impacting Earth during the evening hours of Wednesday (March 30) and into the day on Thursday (March 31). The timing, as of this post, has G2 storm levels (Kp 6) expected between the hours of 7-10pm AKDT on Wednesday evening. This is a perfect time for Alaska to see a ramp up in solar wind for an early aurora event! Keep in mind, however, that these forecasts can be off by several hours. That said, it could be early Thursday morning before we actually see the effects. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and our eyes on the skies!

Source: NOAA/SWPC

Much of the state is currently experiencing mostly cloudy conditions. The exception to this is the central portion of Alaska, including the Fairbanks area, seeing good skies right now. In fact, the skies look very clear on the Poker Flats camera as of this writing. It looks like we should see conditions improving a bit through mid-week and then clouds become a factor for the southern third of Alaska as we move into the weekend.

Anchorage | Valdez | Soldotna | Talkeetna | Glennallen

Expect improving conditions through Tuesday (March 29) evening and into Wednesday. As Wednesday evening progresses, high clouds will start to creep into the area beginning early Thursday morning. Thursday evening and into Friday (April 1) morning, clouds should start to clear out a bit before moving back into the region by mid-morning on Friday. Once clouds return Friday morning, they look to be an issue for viewing conditions Saturday (April 2) and Sunday (April 3). It does look like some decent breaks are possible Saturday evening and into Sunday morning, so conditions could certainly improve as the week progresses.

The best aurora viewing days, if the solar wind supports activity, look to be Tuesday evening through early Thursday morning and Friday evening into Saturday morning. Sunday still looks like there might be a chance for decent breaks in the clouds, so keep an eye out for forecast changes.

Fairbanks | Delta Junction | Healy | Cantwell

Conditions should remain relatively cloud free for much of the area through mid-week. Some mid and upper-level clouds will move through the area Wednesday and into Thursday, but high pressure will keep fair and mostly cloud-free conditions prevalent for the region for most of the week. This begins to change as we move into Sunday morning, with clouds beginning to increase from south to north as the day progresses.

The best aurora viewing days for this area are pretty much Monday evening through early Saturday morning. As clouds begin to increase on Saturday, it may be difficult to see anything Saturday evening into Sunday; however, breaks are certainly possible Saturday evening.

Happy chasing if you are out and about! Updates, if necessary, will be provided in the comments!

Alaska Cloud Outlook: March 21-27

The expected CME over the weekend panned out pretty good. The activity on the Poker Flats camera was great. Unfortunately, we dealt with a lot of cloud cover in the Anchorage area on Saturday night again. The current projections show very little in the way of density but a fairly steady elevated wind speed over the next several days. With that in mind, if skies are clear, keep an eye out for aurora activity. The increased wind speeds could provide the catalyst required for at least some activity.

Source: NOAA/SWPC

Much of the state is currently under clear skies and fair conditions with just a few areas of lower clouds showing in the central part of the state. This will persist through Monday (March 21) and into early Tuesday (March 22) morning. As Tuesday morning begins, upper-level clouds will start creeping in from the southwest ahead of the next storm system and spread across the southeastern half of the state by early Wednesday (March 23) morning. Some breaks are possible across Anchorage, Valdez, and Fairbanks late Wednesday night and into early Thursday (March 24) morning; however, confidence on large breaks is very low. Unsettled conditions will persist through Friday (March 25) with conditions improving throughout the day on Saturday (March 26) and continuing through Sunday (March 27) evening.

For Anchorage and Valdez, expect the best seeing conditions for any aurora activity to be Monday night. Beginning early Tuesday, clouds will become a factor into Wednesday. There may be some breaks in the clouds Wednesday night and into Thursday morning before clouds return to dominate the skies Thursday and through Friday evening. Clouds begin to clear out during the day on Saturday and leave good skies for Saturday and Sunday nights. Thus, the best nights will be Monday, Saturday, and Sunday.

For the Fairbanks region, expect similar conditions a little delayed from the southern regions. Monday and Tuesday nights are looking to be good for seeing conditions with Wednesday through Friday not looking too great. Some breaks are possible Thursday and Friday nights before skies clear for Saturday and Sunday evening viewing chances. Thus, for Fairbanks, Monday, Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday look to be the best chances for good aurora viewing conditions if the data supports any activity.

Happy chasing if you are out and about! Updates, if necessary, will be provided in the comments!

March 13, 2022: An Amazing Morning!

Anticipation was high for the impending G1-G2 geomagnetic storm the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) was forecasting for March 14-15, 2022. Based on the previous forecasts being 12-18 hours late, I had not considered that it could actually come early. I was working on some web stuff and casually looking at data and Twitter to keep abreast of the solar information through the night. The time changed one hour ahead at 2am, and I was still reading stuff and working on things.

At 4am, I decided it had been a long enough day and headed to bed. As I was getting ready to get into bed, I thought I would look at the data one last time. That is when I saw a sharp increase in the data from SWPC and chatter on Twitter that the CME had arrived at the DSCOVR satellite. Looking at the data, it did not look like it was a clear indication, so I reached out to see. I was informed that it was, in fact, a clear CME signature and I decided to head up to Mt. Baldy, just 15 minutes from my house.

I typically do not go to Mt. Baldy. People race up to the top like there is no tomorrow, even in icy conditions, and it can get quite dangerous. I have almost been run over by a speeding car and people have had their vehicles side-swiped because it gets so busy. However, at 4:10am, I was confident the crowd would be minimal. Thus, I took a leap of faith and headed up the mountain. I think it is easy to say, I was not disappointed to be the only car up there and I was not disappointed for staying out so late.

I took my first photo at 4:36am (above) of what wan an amazing arc dancing in the sky. As the morning continued, the arc became more active and started drifting to the south. Before long, I found myself directly underneath it as it continued to dance across the skies above Eagle River. Within about 90 minutes or so, I had aurora directly overhead!

The corona displays were amazing (photo above)! I had not seen this much overhead activity in the Eagle River area since last January and, possibly, March (I was at Hatcher Pass that night). We did have quite the solar storm back in October and November, but clouds prevented viewing much of the activity overhead. This activity was the best I have personally witnessed since that trip to Hatcher Pass last year.

As the morning drew on, it was evident the aurora was dancing all over the sky. Even with the Waxing Gibbous moon hanging in the sky, the lights were bright enough to see with the naked eye. I do not have an external intervalometer for my camera, so I tried to stay focused on capturing continuous images of the night. However, I was constantly moving my camera to try catching as much of the intense activity as I could. I kicked myself for not having my second tripod to have my GoPros running while I was taking stills.

I knew, once I hit the mountain at 4:30am, I was going to stay out until the lights either dissipated or the sunrise began to wash them out. One of the coolest things I found from the morning, during post-processing of my 571 photos, was that I actually captured blue aurora (photo above)! It was very, very faint with the naked eye when I watched it, but it looked more purple to me than blue. However, once I was able to process the photos, I could clearly see the bright blue streak the camera picked up. I thought that was pretty awesome!

The last shot of the morning was taken at 7:10am as the sunrise began to wash the lights out. You could still make out the clouds of aurora in the light, but they were very, very faint. The final shot I took was of the moon setting over the Turnagain Arm with the faint aurora overhead (photo above). I thought it was a neat capture of three events at one time: moon set, aurora, and sunrise. As you can see, it was definitely a great morning to stay out late! If you would like to see the entire night’s time lapse, the video is embedded below. Enjoy!

Alaska Cloud Outlook: March 14-20

The current solar wind projection lines up fairly well with current conditions as it relates to density and wind speed. The Bz has been north (positive) for over a day now. With the elevated Bt and density levels, even with wind speeds a bit lower than anticipated, there is still a chance of decent aurora activity until levels drop. It all hinges on the Bz at this point. Best thing to do for the next day or two is to keep an eye on the Bz. If that starts to drop, our aurora chances increase significantly.

Source: NOAA/SWPC

Current conditions show clouds over the northern and eastern portions of Alaska. The west, southwest, and south-central portions of the state look fairly good right now. The next storm system is moving in just south of the Aleutian Islands and looks to start impacting south-central Alaska early Wednesday (March 16) morning and into the Fairbanks area by mid-morning on Wednesday.

The storm system will stall out Wednesday and into Thursday (March 17), keeping an ample amount of moisture pumping in across much of the state. The Anchorage area could see some breaks late Thursday evening and into early Friday (March 18) morning, perhaps providing some quick glimpses of any aurora activity which may occur. However, clouds return before a possible reprieve Saturday (March 19) night and into Sunday (March 20) morning.

The viewing conditions in Fairbanks do not look much better, with conditions much the same: possible breaks Thursday night into Friday morning, ample cloud coverage through Saturday, and improving conditions late Saturday into Sunday early Sunday morning. The Valdez area looks promising Thursday night into Friday morning and Saturday night into Sunday morning. Otherwise, expect somewhat unsettled and cloudy conditions the rest of the week.

To sum up: Most areas will have excellent viewing conditions Monday and Tuesday (March 15) night with clouds on the rise into Wednesday. A few breaks may provide opportunities for viewing Thursday night into Friday morning with Friday night seeing an increase in cloud cover. The next best viewing opportunity, cloud-wise, looks to be Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

As always, I will provide any updates I can through the week in the comments. If nothing major changes, we’ll stick with what we’ve got above. Happy chasing and let’s hope for more breaks and clear skies than clouds!

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!

Nothing Spectacular for March 6-7

We went out to the river in hopes of seeing some good displays the evening of March 6 into the morning of March 7 with absolutely amazing clear skies. The data looked somewhat weak, but things were showing there might be a decent chance of seeing some aurora activity, so we gave it a shot. So, we loaded up and arrived at the river just a little after 11pm.

Upon arriving at the river, there was not a whole lot happening. There was no real arc evident on the horizon, but we continued to wait. Around 12:25am, the camera started picking up the first indications of the auroral arc on the horizon as solar wind data continued to favor aurora activity over our area. Finally, at 12:30am, the horizon began to glow with a more intense gray as aurora activity began to appear far on the horizon. We were able to capture good camera shots from approximately 12:30am until 1:30am when a think area of shallow fog began forming along the river.

We continued to try waiting for aurora activity until just before 3am. At that point, the fog thickened up enough that visibility was being significantly hampered. Thus, the decision was made to call it a night and head home. Some who stayed out a little longer reported seeing pulsating aurora in the sky with greens and pinks. Altogether, not a spectacular night but, based on the image above, it was still a good night out trying to catch the aurora!

Phenomenal Night March 4/5!

What an amazing night of chasing the night of March 4th into the wee hours of March 5th! The early week cloud forecasts showed that Friday night would be too cloudy for much around Anchorage, but breaks were possible. There was some chatter that clouds should start breaking out around the Knik River area as the 10 o’clock hour neared. A look at satellite imagery showed that clouds were indeed starting to break up, so the decision was made to head to the river and get set up for some waiting.

There were only a few cars at the river when we first arrived, including on tour group taking pictures right next to the swimming hole. I set up the Sony camera to start taking some pictures and was able to confirm a very nice arc over the ridge line to the north. It was a fairly bright, gray “mist” hanging just above the mountains, but the camera had no problem showing the green color. We eventually moved down next to the river and waiting for the show to begin.

The app started showing a great uptick in solar wind data, with HPI indicating 40-41 GW around 11:45pm. We started watching the arc and could see it starting to gain intensity. Then, as expected from keeping an eye on the app’s data, the aurora lit up the sky at 11:49pm. And, what a show it was! We wrapped up at 3am but what a great night it was to be out!

We plan to go out on Sunday, Mar 6, so hopefully I’ll have another update on Monday!

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