Valentine’s Day Aurora – 2023

Valentine’s Day Aurora – 2023
A special Valentine’s Day aurora from Fairbanks – February 14, 2023

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.

View of the aurora on the side of the road at approximately 9:30 pm AK Time | Prints and Wall Art
The view to the southeast. The glow on the right is city light from Fairbanks. Prints and Wall Art

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.

NASA SDO/AIA imagery of the Sun on February 11. The event mentioned here occurs toward the north-northwest limb.
NASA LASCO (SOHO) coronograph images of the event

Fast forward three and a half days, and I walk out the front door just before midnight on February 14, to see this.

Magnificent view from our driveway! Prints and Wall Art
Looking down our driveway

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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.

It covered such an expanse of the sky and was moving so quickly that it was difficult to figure out how to frame the image quickly enough.
One more snap from the front porch before heading inside
Kp index over the last couple of days – last night’s storm peaked at Kp=5.33 (G1 storm in yellow). It might be climbing again, we’ll see if this holds until tonight!

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!

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