The solar wind has been the most cooperative we have seen since we arrived in Svalbard. Temperatures are dropping so skies are starting to stay clear which has opened up views for some spectacular displays. Yesterday we woke up to find the sky covered with aurora — we couldn’t get up to the observatory fast enough!
We are here to study a specific type of aurora called “dayside aurora,” so-called because it only occurs on the side of the earth facing the sun. We are able to see it because we are way up north where the sun don’t shine. Dayside aurora is often dimmer than the brilliant substorm displays more commonly seen at lower latitudes.
The dim aurora requires a 30 second exposure to reveal the colors seen above. I captured the substorm arcs over UNIS using 8 second exposures.
Besides seeing the aurora, the other perk of clear weather is that we can get a better view of the landscape. We can see Longyearbyen from the observatory as well as the incoherent radar facility down the hill, EISCAT. EISCAT is one of the most important tools we use in addition to cameras to monitor ionospheric conditions overhead during the launch window. The crew in charge of the facility was kind enough to show us around.
Dayside aurora is only possible for a short time each morning and we plan our launch window around it. Toward the end of the window each day the sun starts to lighten the sky, just barely, even though it never rises over the horizon. Fortunately for us it never really gets so dark that we can’t see aurora in the sky.
We only caught the tail end of the substorm last night, but the general activity level has continued ever since.
Sadly, despite such seeing such fantastic aurora up here we have not yet launched because of the high ground winds at the launch site in Andenes. The launch crew hasn’t even gotten the rocket out of the housing and elevated into launch position. So now we still wait for the ground weather to cooperate and hope that the conditions overhead continue to cooperate.
Until next time…