11th March 2011

An X-1 class flare erupted on the Sun on the 9th March sending a cloud of charged particles towards the Earth. It was a glancing blow, but the planetary K-index reached 5 (storm) on the night of the 11th March (Melbourne time) and Bz turned south. Favourable conditions for aurora, but was Melbourne too far north was a question I was asking myself. I went for a short drive from home to find a less light-polluted view to the south and have some pizza for dinner. It was a beautiful sunset, too, with rich reds spanning around 120 along the western horizon. By the time I had my pizza the sunset had gone and the sky to the S and SSW looked an even shade with no obvious auroral activity, but I had impressions of flickering and movement in the light-polluted sky at the limits of my vision. So I took a few photos. Seeing the images on the camera's screen did not convince me that an aurora was in progress. So I left after about an hour.

Next morning I loaded them onto the computer and was delighted, though somewhat shocked, to see clear auroral reds, beams and hints of violet in the images. Moral: look more closely at the images at the time to better assess the situation! Not spectacular, but these are the first auroras I've imaged from the Melbourne area since August 2005 - that's too long a wait. Roll on solar max!


21:42: reds and beams are clearly visible to the SSW through the light-polluted sky. Achernar is the bright star upper right and the small Magellanic Cloud is to its left. Globular cluster, 47 Tucanae, is below. The green streak is the light of a fishing boat moving to a better (?) location. Canon 40D, 14mm lens at f2.8, ISO800, 30sec exposure.

21:43: next shot. Canon 40D, 14mm lens at f2.8, ISO800, 30sec exposure.
21:44: next shot. Canon 40D, 14mm lens at f2.8, ISO800, 30sec exposure.

Four frames combined; 21:41 to 21:43.


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