Aurora chasing can be difficult at first, but once you get the hang of the apps it can become much easier! On this page I am going to walk you through Spaceweather Live and what data you need to watch. This is the beginner section, therefore I will just explain what is good vs bad. For more detail, be sure to check out the intermediate page.
I recommend joining local Facebook groups to keep up to date with chasers in your area.
Below is one of the pages I run, Manitoba Aurora and Astronomy. You are more than welcome to join and follow along. While you are there, be sure to share one of your photos if you have one!
The KPI is a 3 hour average of the data across the globe. Look at the KPI with a very skeptic mind. If we have reached KP5, the chances are it has been KP5 for the last hour, just the global average has not reached that threshold. This is the reason we should learn to read the other data.
KPI can give us an idea of how strong a storm was. With historical data we can create a map that gives us a rough idea of how strong the aurora is at each KP index. Take this map with a grain of salt. We can have aurora overhead with KP3, or no aurora with KP5.
If there is KP5 or more forecasted, I will be watching the data very closely and will be ready to get out if the chances are looking good.
The answer is easy, get somewhere out of the city! Whether that is 15 minutes or 2 hours out of the city. The aurora is huge, all of Southern Manitoba will be seeing the same show. The major key is having low light pollution to your north.
The picture above shows a dark sky map of Manitoba. I like to get out of the green/red areas, and into the blue or white areas. Click on the image to see how bright your area is!
There is no specific time to view the Aurora. It can show up shortly after sunset, in the middle of the night, or shortly before sunrise. The main factor you need to go off of is when the data looks good. When you are watching the data and you see everything start to line up, that is when you need to get out of the house!
When you are looking at forecasts for the aurora, take it with a grain of salt. Since we can't predict solar weather with 100% accuracy we can't say for sure when we will expect a show here on Earth. When I look at the predicted time frames, I take it with a +/- 12 hour window. There are many times that NOAA will put out a KPI 6 (also known as G2) storm warning, and we see nothing at all.
The KP Index (KPI) is determined by the average geomagnetic activity in a set 3 hour window across the globe. KPI is a good determining factor for how low the Aurora will be. In Southern Manitoba, we are looking for KPI 4 or better.
With KPI, the more the better. Personally, KPI 4 or more will get me out the door.
When we are out chasing we want more than 40GW. The more the better. If you see this number get above 50GW, it is time to get excited. Especially when it lasts for a long period of time.
With Hemispheric Power, the more the better.
When we are looking at the solar wind, the more wind speed the better show we can get. Therefore we want anything over 400km/sec. If this is above 600km/sec, I will drop what I am doing to get out of the house.
Bz is the most crucial data point you need to read. It is the shields of Earth so to speak.
You want a negative Bz, the more negative the better. The longer it has been negative the better too.
When it comes to the Bt, the more the better. We want above 10nT. Anything below 4nT is concerning.
When you are watching the Solar Density, you want a higher number. The higher the better.
When you are wanting to chase the aurora, the full moon can be concerning. I would not say it should stop you from going out, just be wary that it can drown out the weak shows. If the aurora is strong, it will be visible through the moonlight.
The following screenshots are all taken from Spaceweather Live. Follow the link below which will take you to their website, to see the current aurora data for yourself.
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