Aurora Borealis – October 11, 2021

Aurora Borealis – October 11, 2021
Aurora dancing in the night sky on October 11, 2021 – Fairbanks, Alaska | Purchase Print

On October 9, 2021, a coronal mass ejection (CME) from an associated M1 solar flare burst free from the sun heading in Earth’s direction. At about 6:30 pm Alaska time on October 12, the CME impacted Earth’s magnetosphere, sparking a level G2 geomagnetic storm.

ACE satellite data
ACE data showing a very clear indication of the CME impact time from the increase in solar wind speed between 1:00 and 2:00 UTC. ACE is located at the L1 liberation point between the Earth and the Sun and was impacted about 1 hour before Earth.

The storm brought auroras as far south as Massachusetts. Here in Fairbanks, Alaska, we lucked out with the clouds for much of the early night. We had a pretty nice display for hours. It was far from the best I’ve seen, but that’s often the case for large storms like this. It seems we typically get a few big explosions in the sky, but as the oval pushes southward, we lose sight of the band and we’re left with a more diffuse aurora overhead. Still, we saw a few really nice bursts of color!

The show started as soon as it was dark enough to see stars. Shortly after 8 pm, I walked out to find the northern lights dancing directly overhead. It was energetic enough that some of the high-altitude red color was visible to the camera (although a bit too faint for the eye – I could see the light, but couldn’t discern the color).

Aurora in a not fully dark sky | Purchase Print

After the skies darkened, I took a walk on the trails in our yard, taking some pictures of the aurora through the trees.

Aurora through the trees | Purchase Print
Aurora through the trees | Purchase Print

At about 11:30 AKDT the southern sky exploded, slowly drifting overhead and then off to the north. After this brief display, we were left with a pretty dim and diffuse aurora for a few hours.

Aurora borealis bursting over the southern sky at 11:35 local time – Fairbanks, Alaska | Purchase Print

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A bright and fast corona begins overhead, but only lasts a few seconds | Purchase Print
Exploding sky | Purchase Print
Waves and rays | Purchase Print
Dancing lights with more high altitude red from atomic oxygen | Purchase Print

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I fell asleep at about 1 am, but it looks like there was another great explosion in the sky at about 2:30 AKDT. For more photos, check out my gallery from the evening here: Aurora Borealis – October 11, 2021.

Effects from this geomagnetic storm are expected to continue over the next day. Unfortunately, our weather forecast is calling for clouds and snow across the Alaska interior, so it’s unlikely we’ll get to see any more northern lights from it.


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