red sprites blaze in the sky

Sprites: The Aurora’s Flashy Cousins

They dance above the clouds but below the aurora, crimson fingers stretching up and down, bursting like fireworks then vanishing in the blink of an eye. Sprites, brief flashes of red and purple light associated with lightning, are some of the least-understood electrical phenomena in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Even though globally there are 30-100[…]

Screenshot of Aurorasaurus map with report noting weather

Negative Aurora Reports Are a Plus For Science!

There’s nothing quite like the disappointment when a promising CME fizzles out, or when clouds obscure the sky during a magnificent aurora display (we feel for you in the Pacific Northwest!) Experienced aurora chasers point out that such fickleness is part of the excitement, and that’s true! The reason that the question “when can I[…]

Bright discrete, and dim diffuse aurora

What Is Discrete Aurora? (It’s Not Discreet!)

While “discreet” means something that is a little bit secretive or unobtrusive, “discrete” auroras are distinct, bright, narrow bands—most commonly, photos of auroras are of this type. They typically have a definite lower border and can stretch high into the sky, like curtains, when viewed from the side. From below they are very narrow. They[…]

book cover

Summer (or Winter!) Aurora Reading List

It’s June, the season for graduations and vacations. Whether you’re soaking up the sun at the beach, curling up in a cozy cabin, or enjoying an evening at home, we’ve pulled together a reading list of fantastic books that explore aurora science and citizen science using words and descriptions that are easy to understand. If[…]

A box highlights a tiny fragment of the sky

A Sky Full of Chocolate Sauce: Citizen Science with Aurora Zoo

by Dr. Liz MacDonald and Laura Brandt Originally posted to the Zooniverse blog Viewing the aurora in person is a magnificent experience, but due to location (or pesky clouds) it’s not always an option. Fortunately, citizen science projects like Aurorasaurus and Zooniverse’s Aurora Zoo make it easy to take part in aurora research from any[…]

A person wearing an N95-style mask looks through a large bank of windows at aurora

Like an Outdoor Nightclub: Q&A on Pulsating Auroras

Originally posted to NASA’s The Sun Spot blog NASA’s citizen science projects are collaborations between scientists and interested members of the public. Through these collaborations, volunteers known as citizen scientists have helped make thousands of important scientific discoveries. Aurorasaurus is one such project that tracks auroras around the world in real time via reports on[…]

Photo with logos

Be a Rocket Citizen Scientist: Help Study Pulsating Aurora!

On February 24, running through March 10, 2022, the watch begins for the perfect opportunity to launch a sounding rocket into a common but rarely-viewed type of aurora: the pulsating aurora. The NASA Loss through Auroral Microburst Pulsations (LAMP) mission will send instruments high above the auroral light. Read on to find out what the[…]

A woman joyfully motions toward the sky

PANTS ON: A Newbie’s Guide to Aurora Terms

by Laura Brandt (with lots of help from Dr. Liz!) Since joining Aurorasaurus, I have learned a lot about auroras and the ways aurora chasers and scientists describe them. I’ve been taking notes and want to share my list of key terms—by a newbie, for newbies, and reviewed by a subject matter expert—as a big[…]

A graph shows a sudden upward jump in Solar Wind Power intensity

Laura Learns Aurora: I’ve Got the Power!

Laura here! I am an aurora enthusiast, but new to the science side. Fortunately, the Aurorasaurus blog and website are full of great resources that I’ll be sharing out as I cultivate my knowledge.  One of these is the Space Weather Data page, a graph that shows the strength of solar wind power. In short,[…]

noctilucent clouds streak the sky above a landscape and water.

Noctilucent Classics

Noctlilucent, or “night-shining” cloud season is around the solstice for most places, but it’s a little later in the first two weeks of August, when darkness returns, for noctilucent cloud season at high latitudes! “Noctilucent clouds gleam in late-summer evenings as if they’re lit from within, but it’s sunlight that makes them shine. They look[…]