Exciting Autumn for Aurora Hunters

A Spring calendar points to Autumn 2022 being highly rewarding for Aurora Hunters

Regular readers of our blogs will know that the weeks around the March and September Equinoxes can be a tremendously fulfilling times to go in search of the Northern Lights. We have been seeking the Aurora for well over a decade and in terms of Solar activity, March and April 2022 were unprecedented. The Sun is in the upwards stages of its activity cycle and as that activity increases, there is no reason to suggest that September and October won’t be as good, if not better, than March and April!

We receive regular emails from a website called Space Weather* updating us on Solar and Auroral events. Having recommended March for so long, we were delighted to read a series of messages alerting us to the fact that the Spring Equinox was indeed living up to our lofty expectations.

The calendar (below) lists the various emails from Space Weather around the 2022 Spring Equinox. Importantly, these messages only relate to major Solar events. We have rarely, if ever, seen so many momentous Solar events reported and, while these events were going on, a series of Coronal Holes was also sending solar particles our way on an almost daily basis.

Over the summer months, Northern Europe’s Auroral Zone will be bathed in the 24 hours daylight of the Midnight Sun rendering the Aurora Borealis invisible. However, when darkness returns in mid to late-August, we expect that the Autumn Equinox will deliver similar displays to the magnificent lightshows we witnessed in March.

Why are we so confident? Well, there are two main reasons;

  1. We have seen it ourselves time and time again
  2. We have read the analysis of 75 years of historical records by Solar Physicist, Dr David Hathaway, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flights Center.

Dr Hathaway concluded that the geomagnetic disturbances that cause the Aurora Borealis to appear in the night sky are almost twice as likely around the spring and autumn equinoxes than they are around the winter and summer solstices.

Many people associate Norway, Iceland, Sweden and especially, Finland, with the snowy winter months. However, if you want to avoid the biting chill of winter nights around the Arctic circle, you could not pick a better time than September and October to chase down Lady Aurora. That is when conditions have historically been remarkably similar, if not better, than what was an outstanding spring.

Email headlines from Space Weather highlighted a massive increase in major Solar events around the Spring Equinox

  • These messages only related to major Solar events
  • While these events were going on, a series of Coronal Holes was also sending solar particles towards the Earth on an almost daily basis
  • The next time we are likely to experience similar conditions will be in the weeks around the Autumnal Equinox which falls on 23 September 2022
  • We have rarely, if ever, seen so many noteworthy events reported
  • See our Autumn Northern Lights holidays here

Thursday 17th March – CME WIPES OUT COSMIC RAYS: A CME that hit Earth’s magnetic field on March 13th did more than spark bright auroras.

Thursday 24th March – THE THERMOSPHERE IS HEATING UP: Earth’s upper atmosphere is feeling the heat of Solar Cycle 25. New data show that the thermosphere (the uppermost layer of Earth’s atmosphere) is rapidly warming, with the Thermosphere Climate Index tripling in the past year. The rapid warming could herald a stronger-than-expected solar cycle.

Saturday 26th March – GEOMAGNETIC STORM WATCH (G1-CLASS): Yesterday, the sun launched a coronal mass ejection (CME) toward Earth. The impact could spark minor G1-class geomagnetic storms.

Monday 28th March – SOLAR FLARE, TSUNAMI, AND RADIATION STORM: A strong flare on the sun this morning kicked off a remarkable sequence of events: a solar tsunami, a solar radio burst, a solar proton storm, a terrestrial radio blackout and a polar cap absorption event.

Tuesday 29th March – A ‘CANNIBAL CME’ IS APPROACHING EARTH: A strong G3-class geomagnetic storm is possible later this week when a ‘Cannibal CME’ hits Earth’s magnetic field. It’s a ‘cannibal’ because it ate one of its own kind en route to our planet. The mash-up of two CMEs could spark naked-eye auroras visible from northern-tier US states.

Wednesday 30th March – X-CLASS SOLAR FLARE: Earth-orbiting satellites have just detected a powerful explosion on the sun. The X1.3-class flare on March 30th (1737 UT) caused a shortwave radio blackout over the Americas and has almost certainly hurled a CME toward Earth.

Thursday 31st March – MID-LATITUDE AURORAS: Last night’s geomagnetic storm caused by a ‘Cannibal CME’ was not as strong as expected. Nevertheless, auroras descended into the United States as far south as Colorado and Nebraska. Some were bright enough to photograph using cell phones.

Tuesday 5th April – SOLAR CYCLE UPDATE: Sunspot counts just hit their highest level in nearly 7 years, continuing a trend of relatively strong growth for Solar Cycle 25. The gap between the official forecast of a weak cycle and the actual behavior of the sun is widening.

Sunday 10th April – SURPRISE GEOMAGNETIC STORM: Last night, sky watchers in northern-tier US states were surprised when auroras appeared during a brief but intense geomagnetic storm.

Monday 11th April – EARTH-DIRECTED CME: A dead sunspot exploded today. The corpse of AR2987, which decayed days ago, erupted, and the debris is heading straight for Earth. A CME expected to arrive on April 14th could spark moderately strong G2-class geomagnetic storms.

Thursday 14th April – GEOMAGNETIC STORM UNDERWAY: A moderately strong G2-class geomagnetic storm is underway on April 14th following the apparent arrival of a “dead sunspot CME.” During such storms, naked-eye auroras can descend into northern-tier US states from New York to Washington.

Sunday 17th April – X-CLASS SOLAR FLARE: A major new sunspot group just produced an X-class solar flare–potentially the first of many. The explosion on April 17th (0334 UT) caused a shortwave radio blackout over Australia and parts of Asia, and it may have hurled a CME into space.

Wednesday 20th April – INTENSIFYING SOLAR ACTIVITY: The sun unleashed another X-class solar flare today, causing a deep shortwave radio blackout over southeast Asia and Australia. Intensifying solar activity has resulted in more than 19 flares during the past 24 hours alone.

Do you fancy taking advantage of Autumn’s increased geomagnetic activity? Why not check out our Autumn Northern Lights holidays here?

*Thanks to www.spaceweather.com for the excellent and always informative updates


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