New map changes: more accurate forecasting and alerts for you!

Hello, Aurorasaurus friends!

We’ve been working hard to make the Aurorasaurus website even better! The Aurorasaurus team would like to let you know of a few changes that you will soon be seeing to the Aurorasaurus website, apps, and alerts.

The old auroral oval map is GONE! (The old auroral oval map can still be found at the University of Alaska Fairbanks uses in their Geophysical Institute forecast website.) Why? Well,  there were a few things that could have been improved with the previous oval:

  1. The auroral oval was only shown for the northern hemisphere. We know that there are some seriously dedicated southern hemisphere aurora hunters and we want to help them too!

  2. The oval didn’t provide you with any idea of how likely you are to actually see the aurora. It just says where the oval was predicted to be, not how strong the aurora actually it was.

  3. The oval appeared in the daylight section of the map, where it was be impossible to see an aurora.

So, we’re implementing a big improvement for you, as you have been asking for. We’re moving away from the older auroral model to use the newer, OVATION Prime model. Avid aurora hunters might have heard of this model before as it is the model that NOAA’s Space Weather Predication Center uses in its forecasting.

An example image from the Space Weather Prediction Center aurora prediction website

An example image from the Space Weather Prediction Center aurora prediction website

By moving to this new output, we hope to solve the previous issues:

  1. The auroral ovals are shown for both the northern and southern hemisphere.

  2. A color scale indicates roughly how likely you are to see the aurora directly overhead from that location in about 30-60 minutes (or, in other words, the time it takes for the input model data monitored by ACE at L1 to arrive at Earth).

  3. And how far equatorward you can see aurora and where it is dark

So what will this new map look like? Well, I’m glad you asked! Since the Aurorasaurus map is a Google map, in regular geographic coordinates (and not the special geomagnetic view OVATION shows) items may get a little stretched at the poles…but it shouldn’t create a problem. Here’s what it looks like!

A screenshot of the new Aurorasaurus map

A screenshot of the new Aurorasaurus map

You can now compare the auroral oval (the semi-transparent colored area) with the color bar to determine how likely a visible aurora would be directly overhead (as a percentage). Note that the percentage value doesn’t take daylight into account. You’ll also note that we will be just displaying one Northern and Southern oval (not the two we currently do). The new oval is an estimate of where the aurora will be visible in around 30-60 minutes (so a bit like the old purple oval).

But wait, there’s more!

In addition to just displaying the oval, we are now going to start estimating where you might actually see the aurora from. The model above shows where it might be visible directly overhead but, because an aurora occurs so high in the sky, we are often able to see it much further equatorward than this (i.e. southward in the northern hemisphere; northward in the southern).

This estimate, which we call the “view line”, is going to be shown on the map as a red line. This estimate is similar to Space Weather Prediction Center’s view line, however, it is based on the observations the Aurorasaurus community submit. Your observations have helped make this estimate and they will continue to improve its accuracy! You will now get alerted if you are “poleward” of the view line– these will be much more broad alerts as many folks have asked for.

Additionally, unlike any other aurora map out there our estimate is going to be dynamic. That means that as the Aurorasaurus community reports their observations of the aurora (or verifies tweets), we will adapt the view line to include these clusters of locations. An example of this is shown below:

A screenshot of the new Aurorasaurus map with a dynamic view line (red) and clusters of observations (blue)

A screenshot of the new Aurorasaurus map with a dynamic view line (red) and clusters of observations (blue)

The normal view line (shown as the dashed red line) would trace the shape of the oval itself, however, when several sightings occur in a certain area (a cluster), the view line (solid red line) will adapt to give you a better idea of where you might be able to see an aurora. As was the case before, you will also get alerted if you are within a cluster! You can also see in this snapshot that our view line knows where the darkness has fallen and alerts will only go out during times of darkness!

Also, in case you’re wondering what happened to the clouds? Unfortunately, Google has stopped providing the cloud layer data for its maps. We’re looking for new ways to bring the cloud data back though and hope to have a new solution for this soon.

Any questions or comments about the change? Then feel free to comment on this blog post, email us at aurorasaurus.info@gmail, or get in touch via Facebook or Twitter. These changes take some time to appear but will roll out over the next few weeks — we’ll let you know when.

We’re so excited to have this improvement for our friends in the southern hemisphere and we can’t wait to start seeing the northern lights again! We are ready for another season!

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