Aurora and Sunset Hues in the Clouds

Friday Spring arrived in Sitka.  It was sunny, the crocus had popped up in the yard, the daffodils have just shown their green shoots peeking out from the soil, the skunk cabbage had returned to Navy Creek and the temperature has reached into the 50s. 

Just at sunset clouds started to form around the edges allowing for a nice palate of warm hues.  The sunset has already moved far enough to the Northwest that we can’t see it from our house but close enough to allow the warm colors to reflect and refract into our field of vision.  The weather forecast showed another several days of clear to partly cloudy skies. 

The magnetic forecast showed a solar storm in progress.  I kept an eye on my aurora app with its polar projection — the aurora corona superimposed.  The same app gives predicted KP readings for the next half hour and the signs looked promising.  The moon was waxing but was closer to new than full.  It might be a good night for the aurora.

Kevin and I set out to Starrigavan at a little before 10:30. We were not disappointed.  While the moon provided more light than I had expected and while people driving by with their high beams on trying to see the aurora from their cars (hint, park shut off your lights and step outside) at times seemed to dim the aurora, there was still plenty to see.

Even through the aurora was miles above the clouds, to my eye the lights and clouds interacted in a pleasing way.   It’s rare to be standing outside watching the aurora in the relative comfort of 40 degrees at the civilized time of 11 PM. 

Soon the progressing summer daylight will overwhelm the aurora until mid-August.   From April 29 until August 11, we will have astronomical twilight all night.  From May 23 until July 17, we will have nautical twilight all night.  That means that on a clear night you will be able to make out the horizon all night.

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