Heading north on my way home last night after work and climbing, I noticed a strong green glow to my right. It’s not uncommon to see the aurora out my windshield when on the Steese Highway heading out of Fairbanks, the auroral oval is usually on the northeastern horizon from Fairbanks. But we really only see it in the west or southwest like this when it is very active.
It’s also usually pretty faint when driving. The headlights from the car typically overpower most of the lights in the sky. Last night it was definitely bright enough to catch my eye. I pulled the truck over to get a better look.
Last night there was a low level (G1) geomagnetic storm sparked by a passing coronal mass ejection. It likely just glanced Earth’s magnetic field despite not being a direct hit. The culprit was one of many sunspots that have been active the last few days, sunspot AR3216. On February 11, 2023, a filament from this sunspot released a CME that was partially directed toward Earth.
Fast forward three and a half days, and I walk out the front door just before midnight on February 14, to see this.
I watched the show for about 20 minutes, from 11:30-11:50 pm. I didn’t feel I had time to get my winter clothes on, so I was running around the snowy driveway in my pajamas and slippers at -10°F. I went inside when the display started to die down and I couldn’t feel my toes anymore.
We should expect more aurora over the next few days. It looks like this storm has peaked, but effects may linger into tonight. Another magnetic filament from sunspot (AR3226) erupted and released a CME early this morning and this one is Earth-directed!
Unfortunately, Fairbanks doesn’t have the best Earth weather forecast for the next few days for aurora watching. Especially on Friday, February 17. Looks like lots of clouds and snow. Hopefully, we’ll have some clearer skies than they are calling for, or maybe I can get away from them with a bit of driving. If it hits a little later and pushes into Saturday, then we might have a better chance of getting a show!