April 23, 2012 Local Auroras and Barn

I knew of some small solar flares but didn't think much about them. I then saw a NOAA post on facebook about the cloud arriving and having the "good stuff" in it. So I look at obs and see Bz held down at -15 all day, since noon. Thought, crap. It was then a waiting game on darkness.

I drive a few miles over into Iowa, to a usually pretty desolate gravel road with a barn. Kinda hard to find places no one goes by. Friend Bob from town shows up not long after. I got there before it was even dark yet and used the camera to see if it picked anything up. It seemed it was. Soon I could tell with my eyes there was a green arc there. This with a fair bit of twilight left to fade yet. I hurry up and get shots of that with the moon and Venus.

Car coming from the west helps light up the barn.

This had to be our lights as we turned the cars around or moved them.

I'm usually happy to just see the green arc and glow this far south. It's nice when it is a brighter glow too, like this one was. It was very obvious to the eye if you were out there.

There's only so much you can do with a green arc that never really changes. So time to start a star trail. I saw a meteor right where that streak is up there. I did not see or notice that flash down lower however. And those are lined up perfectly. So I'm not sure if the meteor didn't show up and this is a satellite or something or what. I also don't know if a satellite would flare brightly, then again over a longer stretch later. It has to be satellite related I think, just because it is the same thing, given the line matching up and the fact the gap between frames is that short on the bright part.

Around this same time a post on facebook mentioned a fireball. Then another one from Blair actually saw it too and said it broke up into two south of town. I'm almost sure this has to be that thing. I saw it on the lcd and quickly scanned the skies above for a satellite or plane and could find neither. I did that before seeing the posts about any fireball obviously. The time matches up very well for the fireball.

It's not overly bright to be shining a flashlight around a barn at night I don't think. I tried to do it very quickly and not many times. For the person not knowing we were out taking pictures of auroras, well it would look kinda bad to see flashlights going around.

Had to get a quick one looking through the barn at the auroras out the back door.

I have to mention the next part lol. My friend had to work the next morning like 5 or 6 or so, so he was about to head home. May as well anyway, given the green arc wasn't changing at all after a couple hours of it now. There is a sharp drop off for the ditch next to this gravel road. Not deep, but what it goes down is sharp and right off the gravel. He's backing up behind me and stops. I see his dome light is on, looking in my mirror and figure he's putting stuff away. He then starts to move again and stops again. The angle he was now I had to think, I hope he's not stuck and gone over too far. I then lean out and look back and oh crap, all I see is his back driver's side tire at least 1 foot in the air. I run back and I say, "Dude you're tire is over a foot in the air!" He says, (something to the effect)"It is?" He goes forward and all is well lol. I was thinking, crap I'm going to have to sit on his trunk and try to get the car back down or something. Glad it came out of there and nothing bad happened to the car. It looked like he was in the process of remaking carhenge. I've about done that on that road a hundred times. You turn the wheel too much trying to back up and there the front right tire goes down.

About and hour after he leaves, near midnight then, it was fading bad and about nothing left. I knew better than to leave then, as I swear they love to have end outburst spurts that really put on a show...then finally end after those. It's like they can't end without doing that it seems. 2004 in November the KP8 was like that. Wound way down after midnight to about nothing. Then 2-3 a.m. this absurd wall races south and is just insane for 5-10 minutes. Then it was done. Once you see the flare up starting, get shooting cause it won't last long more often than not. The October red outburst madness thing last year did the same thing. That was going before dark, then at dark it slowly wound down to not much. Then a bit after it let up, the crazy red wave happens and is seen way south. That was 15-20 minutes before it really all went away. I can remember times before 2004 where I gave up after it let up, only to see 3 a.m. crazy photos from Oklahoma of an outburst. Don't stop when the main show seems to be over. It will come back more often than not. Consider the whole time, all there was was the green arc. Couldn't buy pillars and beams. 3 hours of a damn steady green arc. Then when it dies at midnight, comes back out of nowhere at 1 a.m., it puts on a spectacle of dancing beams. 4th best showing I've seen. It's getting silly how well little C flares produce, while we can't seem to pull crap off the M and X flares that were Earth directed. This one reached KP7 eventually and had been going for 12 hours.

I didn't get a lot of stills before I set up a timelapse/star trail shot. I really really should have had my old Xt ready with the fast 50mm on it. Seemed this outburst of great dancing beams lasted like 20 minutes. Then when it went away, things really went away. And you can see by the trend on the below obs that it was likely to be over after it went back north after that short dip.

Best page to watch the obs is here: http://www.spacew.com/plots.php On the above grab I cursored over the Bz so you could see 24 hours and not 2 hours like otherwise. The velocity at the time was only around 400km/s. Can see on this it is now in the mid 500's. But look at the 24hr Bz to the right of speed. 18z on left is 1pm here. It went down and stayed down at noon, then by around 10pm was ready to go back north. All I saw from dark(9pm) till midnight, when it was really dim, was a green arc. Then note that brief drop off that starts falling around 6z(1 a.m.). That is when the red beam outburst happened, starting about 1 a.m.. Once that was over and the Bz went back north, it was clear over that whole northward trend it was now finally probably over. Went home then, fairly content it was done.

Great little surprise show. More potential next two nights, but man when one is ready for potential ahead of time, those sure don't like to pan out.