Aw poop. No lights.
A huge aurora developed last night, reaching most of the Midwest, as far south as Arkansas. But nothing showed here in Spokane. There was a vague red glow in the clouds for a while, but that might have been a reflection of the orange streetlights.
Seeing the lights again is a sort of bucket-list thing; I'd been hoping to catch them easily at this northern latitude.
I saw them once before, in Kansas in 1957. Turns out I should have stayed in Kansas
if I wanted to see them again! Slightly frustrating.
Bit later: Hmm. Comparing with this report
from the NW coast, maybe that vague reddish glow was the Lights after all. Photo is about the same color and coverage as what I saw. Not impressive, though. Wouldn't even catch your attention if you weren't already thinking about auroras!
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The media coverage of this solar event is screwed. Typically NOAA will give an advance warning of a solar storm, and most TV stations and websites around here will put up articles like "Watch for the Northern Lights tonight!" and "Watch for huge electronic disruptions!" Nothing ever happens after those articles. The aurora is typically seen in Norway but not in America.
This event seems to have taken NOAA by surprise, so no warning and no articles. Despite that, it may well be the most widespread aurora in living memory, spanning from South Carolina to California.
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Sort of parallels the media coverage of comets. There have been several widely publicized comets in my lifetime, none of which were worth looking at. Ikeya-Seki was much ballyhooed in 1965; several of us nerd types got up "impossibly early" one morning (probably 6 AM!) and drove up to a high vantage point
near Tuttle Creek. One of us had a telescope, and we were well-prepared with altitude, azimuth and all that. Nothing. No comet visible.
Same thing with Kohoutek in '73 and Halley in '86. Big news, no visible comet.
But one that didn't make the news
was hugely dramatic. For reasons now forgotten, I was helping some friends of the family drive from Kansas to New York in April 1970. Around 2 AM I was taking my turn at the wheel, going straight east on a drab flat section of old US40 in Illinois. I caught something bright to the left; thinking it might be a car trying to pass, I turned to look, and immediately realized what it was. I swerved onto the shoulder, recovered, and shouted COMET!
The others woke up. I tried to show them the comet and tried even harder to explain what had happened, because COMET!
is probably not the most commonly shouted word in a swerving car at 2 AM. They grumbled and went back to sleep. Later I figured out this was Comet Bennett
. Not a household name, to say the least, but it was the only easily visible comet in living memory.