The Year of the Aurora
Over the past few years, solar activity has been rising to one of its periodic peaks, and the frequency and intensity of aurorae has risen along with it. Solar maximum was expected to occur in 2013. Auroral activity tends to peak after solar max, so this winter and next are likely to be the best times to see aurorae for another decade.
Aurorae, also popularly known as the northern lights, are one of the wonders of the natural world. Long the subject of Nordic legend, they are now known to be triggered by atomic particles flowing from the Sun. Accelerated by the Earth’s magnetic field, these particles cascade onto the atmosphere in a ring around the poles, causing it to glow at altitudes between about 100 and 250 km. This talk describes what aurorae look like, how and where they occur and how to watch for and photograph them.
About Ian Ridpath
Ian Ridpath is an award-winning author and broadcaster on astronomy and space with over 40 book titles to his name. He is editor of the Oxford Dictionary of Astronomy and Norton’s Star Atlas. His other books include the Collins Guide to Stars & Planets, The Monthly Sky Guide, and Collins Gem Stars, all continuously in print for over 25 years. For many years he edited the SPA’s magazine Popular Astronomy. In 1985 he ran the London Marathon dressed as Halley’s Comet. Among his current interests is hunting the northern lights, which will form the subject of his talk at AstroFest.