Aurora, April 23, 2023

Aurora Borealis, April 23, 2023

Last night, Kath­leen said to me, “I hear the auro­ra should be good tonight.” I checked the app on my phone that shows me the auro­ra data. Every­thing looked pret­ty good except the Bz val­ue, which was about +17. (For a good show, you want the Bz to be neg­a­tive. The longer it’s been neg­a­tive, the better.)

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Aurora, March 23, 2023

Aurora Borealis

Wow, that was a show.

The data looked ridicu­lous from the out­set. There’s one para­me­ter, when you’re con­sult­ing the ora­cle (sor­ry, the space-weath­er data), the Bz, that you want to be a neg­a­tive num­ber. I’ve seen great shows when the Bz was around ‑3 or ‑5. The longer it’s neg­a­tive, the better.

Yes­ter­day after­noon, every time I checked, the Bz was around ‑15. Crazy.

And the auro­ral oval looked like this. When it’s yel­low, that’s usu­al­ly a good sign. Red—that much red—is flat-out amazing.

The auroral oval from, showing a large red patch over central North America
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Comet chasing


I went out to see if I could get any pho­tos of C/2022 E3 (ZTF) tonight, but the moon is far, far too bright. It was kind of a relief, hon­est­ly; it’s ridicu­lous­ly cold tonight (like, push­ing ‑30°C before the wind gets fac­tored in). I snapped a cou­ple pho­tos, but I could­n’t see any­thing resem­bling a comet in them. 

It was­n’t near­ly as suc­cess­ful an attempt as the last time I went comet chas­ing.

Comet NEOWISE (tak­en in 2020)

Mars photobombing the full moon

The full moon seen through the branches of a tree

The moon tonight is very full and very bright, and there’s a tiny lit­tle speck of light juu­u­u­u­ust about touch­ing it. I checked and it turns out it’s Mars.

(I real­ize I kind of gave it away in the title. So it goes.)

The full moon. An inset shows the very small, slightly reddish dot that is Mars.
That tiny red­dish dot in the 4×original size inset? That’s a planet.

[Edit] I just real­ized it’s also the 50th anniver­sary today of the launch of Apol­lo 17, the last crewed mis­sion to the moon. Here’s to the con­tin­ued suc­cess of the Artemis project and the return of humans to the lunar surface.

Saturday night’s show

Aurora Borealis (panorama)

We went down to Bois­se­vain on the week­end to help out with the Dun­rea Flea Mar­ket[1]It rather out­grew the avail­able space in Dun­rea., and stayed over at our friends’ farm­house a few miles south of town. There were a few shows put on by the North­ern Lights that night; I caught one of them. They danced for about 20 min­utes while I watched. Here are some of the pho­tos I got.

I tried to cap­ture a panora­ma, to show just how much of the sky was involved. Unfor­tu­nate­ly my image-stitch­ing pro­gram balked at cre­at­ing a panora­ma; the auro­ra were mov­ing too much for the soft­ware to find sim­i­lar­i­ties in the pho­tos. I man­u­al­ly aligned them instead.

Aurora Borealis (panorama)

And I did up a quick time­lapse. The 33 sec­onds of video rep­re­sents about 33 min­utes of pho­tos, each one a 5‑second exposure.

When the show was wind­ing down, I turned around and saw that the Milky Way was high above the farm. One more pho­to, I thought, then I’ll go inside.

The Milky Way above the farm


1 It rather out­grew the avail­able space in Dunrea.

Friday night in the park

Star Trails at Spruces

My friend Tim was camp­ing at Wasagam­ing, as is his wont on the Sep­tem­ber long week­end. I went to vis­it on Fri­day evening.

We head­ed up to Spruces to check out the sunset…

…and the moon.

Lat­er, the galaxy appeared as the moon set.

And I decid­ed to try to catch Jupiter with my 55–250mm lens, which is usu­al­ly too shaky at 250mm. It seems to have worked. (If I’m read­ing this right, the moons are, L‑R, Cal­lis­to, Europa, and Io.)

Jupiter, with moons Callisto, Europa, and Io visible

After I dropped Tim off at his camp­site, I saw that the auro­ra were mak­ing an appear­ance. I stopped in a few places (the beach in Wasagam­ing[1]Man, I real­ly don’t like the orange lights at the beach, the dock on the golf course road, and on the road­side on #10 highway).


1 Man, I real­ly don’t like the orange lights at the beach