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Aurora visible from Cumbria and UK Saturday night? Maybe…

Just sent out an email to members of the Eddington Astronomical Society, giving a “heads up” that there MIGHT be an aurora visible from the UK tomorrow night…


Hi all,
Now, read this next line carefully.
There is a chance, just a chance, we might see a display of the northern lights from our part of the world tomorrow night, if things go well.
Go back and read that again. I didn’t say there WILL be an aurora. I said there MIGHT be. We’re not sure at this point. All we know is that there’s been a pretty decent solar flare, directed at Earth, and if it behaves itself, and hits us in the right way, if all the scientific wibbly-wobbly things happen in the right order, etc, then there’s a possibility we might see something after dark tomorrow.
Now, normally I’d send out an emergency email if anything kicked off, but I won’t be able to do that tomorrow night because I’ll be at work, so you’ll have to keep up to speed with developments yourself. How?
Keep an eye on the following website:
Go there now to familiarise yourself with it. See those vertical bars? Green means nothing much happening. If they turn yellow, it’s a sign of increased activity. If they turn red that’s a very good sign – it means a big increase in activity. Look at the numbers now. If the red bar climbs up to 7 that’s a sign that something good is brewing. But in my experience those numbers need to climb towards 8 really before we can see any real activity above our northern horizon, because we’re so far south here in Kendal (of course, if you’re further north than Kendal, you will see activity when the numbers are a little lower). Even then we’re just looking for a northern horizon glow, maybe a few stubby rays, things like that.
However, if the activity level reaches 9 that means a major geomagnetic storm is underway, and activity should be visible from here, so you should jump away from the computer, not even waiting to turn it off, and get outside to look at the sky – or, better, if it’s clear, jump in the car and get out of town to somewhere dark to really enjoy the show. 
You should also, if you’re on Twitter, sign up to Follow some of the aurora alert Tweeters on there, who will be spreading the word if anything kicks off after dark tomorrow.
Now, again, this is all very uncertain. Let’s recap.
* Will we see an aurora tomorrow? POSSIBLY. NO PROMISES!
* When? WE CAN’T TELL. ALL WE CAN SAY IS THAT IT WILL BE WORTH LOOKING AFTER DARK, IN CASE SOMETHING IS GOING ON. The display could begin during daylight hours, and end before sunset, in which case we’ll miss it. Or it could start well after we’ve all gone to bed, in which case we’ll miss it.
* Best case scenario? auroral activity climbs through the afternoon, so that as darkness falls here we can see something, and that ‘something’ becomes something amazing later in the night when it’s really dark, but there’s ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEE OF THAT AND WE DON’T KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
What do you need to do to prepare?
* Familiarise yourself with that website so you’ll know the changes to look for.
* Keep checking the weather forecast so you’re ready to observe.
* Make sure your camera batteries are charged! You won’t want to miss photo ops if a display begins.
* Think about where you can go to see the display if it happens.
I’ll let you all know if any more info comes in about this, but for now, just be aware that tomorrow night MIGHT be interesting. And please, no-one email me asking for times, directions, or anything more than is contained in this email. This is it, this is all we know.
Just cross your fingers! 🙂

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