Did You Know...
... that if conditions are just right, you can see the aurora borealis
here in Minnesota? Although the northern lights are normally only
visible at very high latitudes in places like Alaska and Canada, on
extremely active days the auroral oval expands to more southern latitudes.
|The Space Plasma Physics
Research Group at the University of Minnesota in
Minneapolis created this web site to share the beauty of the northern
lights with you. This site features photographs of the aurora
borealis taken in Minnesota by Professor John Winckler, as well as links to
other aurora images on the WWW. We have also included information on
space weather forecasts, and lists of resources essential for every
to see examples of what the aurora borealis
looks like when it is visible in Minnesota.
The Aurora Gallery features photographs of the auroral borealis
taken by University of Minnesota Professor Emeritus John Winckler.
Dr. Winckler received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1946 and is an
expert in the field of space physics - the study of Earth's magnetosphere,
the solar wind, and the aurora.
These photographs were taken by Dr. Winckler at the O'Brien Observatory
located in Marine-on-the-St. Croix, Minnesota. The O'Brien Observatory
is maintained by the University of
Minnesota- Twin Cities Department of Astronomy.
The Big Dipper is clearly visible in 2 of the images. Can you find them?
Click Here for the Answers!!
Images and Photography Tips on the WWW
Other Sites with Aurora Images
Photographing the Aurora
Space Weather and Auroral Forecasts
The aurora borealis or northern lights are caused by a complicated set of
interactions between the solar wind and Earth's magnetic field. Recent
developments in satellite and ground observations now make it possible
to forecast "space weather" near Earth resulting from disturbances on
the sun. Because the science of forecasting geomagnetic storms is
relatively new, our ability to predict space weather is still somewhat
limited. Just as the meteorologists on televsion sometimes fail to
predict thunderstorms on Earth, space weather forecasters are not always able
to accurately predict when a solar flare or coronal mass ejection from
the sun will interact with Earth's magnetosphere to produce a geomagnetic storm. However,
these space weather forecasts can still help power companies and operators
of communications and GPS satellites anticipate potential problems
caused by geomagnetic storms.
Space weather forecasts can also help predict when we might be able to
see the aurora borealis in Minnesota!
Today's Space Weather Forecasts
Auroral Forecasts and Activity Reports
- Aurora Forecast
from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks.
This site also includes a
customizable world map showing the approximate Universal Time (UT)
when maximum activity is likely to occur at different longitudes.
This is usually close to local geomagnetic midnight, and occurs at
about 5:30 UT in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Universal Time (UT), or
Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), is 6 hours ahead of Central Standard
- The Space Environment Center
has a web page of
Tips on Viewing the Aurora. This site features a list of the
geomagnetic latitudes of locations around the world, and a
map showing how high the Kp index needs to be to see
the aurora in different locations in the United States. According
to the information on this web site, we have a reasonable chance of seeing
the aurora borealis in Minnesota when the Kp index
is greater than 5 or 6. To see the current Kp index
go to the bottom of the
Today's Space Weather web page, provided by the
Space Environment Center. Note that
the time scale on the Kp index is given in Universal Time (UT),
also known as Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), so you need to subtract 6 hours
to get Central Standard Time (CST).
- Auroral Activity
based on data from the latest pass of the NOAA POES satellite, provided by the
Space Environment Center.
- The Solar Terrestrial Dispatch
maintains the Auroral Activity
Observation Network which provides reports of recent aurora
sightings from around the world. You can even
your own observations!
You can also download a FREE trial version of the
STD Aurora Monitor
Software 2.0 a space weather monitoring package you can run on your
- The University of Minnesota Space Physics Group recently began its
Aurora Report for aurora watchers in Minnesota and the Midwest.
ISTP Sun-Earth Connections and Solar Maximum
The International Solar Terrestrial
Physics (ISTP) Program is an international collaboration of space
physicists sponsored by NASA, the
European Space Agency (ESA), and the Japanese Institute of Space and
Astronautical Science (ISAS). The primary goal of this program is to
promote the study of Sun-Earth Connections to increase our understanding
of the sun and the solar wind, Earth's magnetosphere, geomagnetic storms
and the aurora. Space physicists in the
University of Minnesota Space Plasma
Physics Research Group are actively involved in studying data from
the ISTP satellites Geotail, Wind, and Polar, and data from collaborating
missions such as the FAST satellite.
Sun-Earth Connection Web Sites
- Mission to
Geospace - the ISTP Program outreach and education web site.
- Take a look a the listing of
ISTP Sun-Earth Connection Events to see examples of the data
space physicists use to track the progress of coronal mass ejections
and solar flares, and monitor their effects on Earth.
real-time data from ISTP satellites and collaborating programs.
Current Solar Maximum Information