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August 31, 2017 Auroras

Chippewa National Forest

A corotating interaction region ahead of a coronal hole high speed stream of solar wind was on the way. I had been watching the solar wind conditions most of the evening, but I was not impressed with the magnetic fields, so I decided to call it a night. Of course, one last check of Bz before I closed my eyes revealed that it had suddenly dropped to -19 nT. If it stayed that low, it would bring quite a show, but I went to sleep anyway. Since the conditions had been quiet for a couple days, I figured it would take a while for the auroras to get revved up. I set my alarm clock for 3:00 AM.

I did not sleep that long.  About 20 minutes before the alarm clock would go off, I awoke, looked at the solar wind conditions again, and decided I should get out.  The moon was on its way below the horizon, so the sky conditions would be good for shooting, or so I thought.

I drove north and could see the band of auroras ahead of me as I proceeded into the Chippewa National Forest.  When I got to Pughole Lake, I got out of the car to discover I had driven toward a band of low clouds.  I checked satellite and found it was a fairly small patch of clouds, and they'd move off soon.  Above them, though, I could see that the stars and the auroras looked a bit dim.  There was a fair bit of smoke in the sky.

Nice Auroras
A substorm begins on Pughole Lake.

The pictures don't look particularly smoky, but I had to double the exposure time on my shots compared to what I usually use. I took pictures of a mild substorm and then pondered when I should return home and get a couple hours more sleep before work.  I'm usually out photographing earlier in the night, and because of my late timing this time, I was photographing while the Suomi NPP polar orbiting satellite was flying overhead.  This allowed me to make a comparison between what I saw at ground level and what the satellite was seeing from above.

Nice Auroras
A Suomi NPP satellite flyover occurred while I was taking pictures.
Nice Auroras
Picture of the auroras at the same time as the satellite image above (24mm focal length, camera 1).
Nice Auroras
Picture of the auroras at the same time as the satellite image above (24mm focal length, camera 2).

My images correspond reasonably well with the satellite picture. The base of the auroras was about 10 degrees, maybe a little more, above the horizon, and that would mean they were about 350 to 500 km to my north. I thought that would I saw on the ground would look a little narrower on satellite. This was the same way the comparison struck me on July 15, 2012.

Anyway, I continued to take a few more pictures and made it to bed a little after 5:00 am, allowing me to get a couple hours sleep before heading to work.

Nice Auroras
Auroras expanded over the entire northern sky.

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