What is aurora?
The aurora displayed when the solar wind strikes atoms in the magnetosphere. The disturbance will cause the electrons in the atoms and move to higher-energy level once the electrons drop back to the lower level it will cause a fantastic light on the sky, and that’s how aurora borealis are created.
How to see the Northern Lights?
After the scientific introduction, let's talk about the different factors that you will have to look at to be able to see Northern Lights, and all of them together gives you a chance to see it during your chasing night.
- Read more about how to take pictures of the Northern Lights.
In March 2020, we started using real-time data coming from magnetometers and provided with the help of multiple spatial agencies around the North Pole. A magnetometer is a device that measures the fluctuation of the aurora in the Earth's magnetic field.
When the value measured is dropping quickly in the negative (~-150nT), it means an aurora has a high chance to be dancing in the sky, and is called a substorm. The lowest it gets, the stronger the aurora will be. We are then talking about magnetic storms.
When in the opposite the value is growing a lot, it can mean the aurora is charging (~150nT) and will release with a display in the next few minutes or will come back to an average value (~5nT) until the next fluctuation.
The KP index is one of the most known data for aurora. Related to the disturbance in the Earth's Magnetic field, it expresses the scale of activity on a level from 0 to 9. The higher it gets, the more chance you will see the Northern Lights far from the center of the Pole. Even though KP index is a very popular data among aurora hunters, unfortunately, it has proven to be wrong many times as it only compounds the Northern Lights' strength for the next 3-6 hours.
When you are walking outside, and it gets windier, there is more chance that you notice it and feels it. It's the same for solar wind; the faster it gets, the more likely aurora will be bright, shifting and that you will see it.
Interplanetary Magnetic Field
Planet earth has two poles: north and south. Let's take an example of when you have two magnets, and you bring them close to each other, they automatically attract themselves. It happens the same when the north-south orientation of the interplanetary magnetic field is pointing southward. It will attract the Earth's magnetosphere that is looking northward, which will perform destruction with the Earth's magnetic field and allow particle strikes with oxygen and nitrogen atoms to sprinkles down on our atmosphere and beam lights, which we see as aurora.
The clouds coverage forecast will help you to find the best position to spot the Northern Lights. With it, you can locate and predict the cloud’s movement and your chance to see the Northern lights will be higher when the sky is clear.
Finally, the weather is an important value to look after. You don't want to go out chasing Northern Lights when there is storm alert in your area. Be careful, and drive safely, and stay home when the condition is too dangerous!