Why did so few people see Auroras on Friday night?

Why did so few people see auroras on Friday night, after all the media hype? You can see one of two reasons in the data. As I explained in my last post, you can read what happened in the data shown in the Satellite Environment Plot from this website (warning — they’re going to make new version of the website soon, so you might have to modify this info a bit.) Here’s what the plot looked like Sunday morning.

What the "Satellite Environment Plot" on swpc.noaa.gov looked like on Sunday.  Friday is at left; time shown is "Universal" time; New York time is 4 hours later. There were two storms, shown as the red bars in the Kp index plot; one occurred very early Friday morning and one later on Friday.  You can see the start of the second storm in the "GOES Hp" plot, where the magnetic field goes wild very suddenly.  The storm was subsiding by midnight universal time, so it was mostly over by midnight New York time.

What the “Satellite Environment Plot” on swpc.noaa.gov looked like on Sunday. Friday is at left.  Time shown is “Universal” time (UTC); New York time is 4 hours later at this time of year. There were two storms, shown as the red bars in the Kp index chart (fourth line); one occurred very early Friday morning and one later on Friday. You can see the start of the second storm in the “GOES Hp” chart (third line), where the magnetic field goes wild very suddenly. The storm was subsiding by midnight Universal time, so it was mostly over by midnight New York time.

What the figure shows is that after a first geomagnetic storm very early Friday, a strong geomagnetic storm started (as shown by the sharp jump in the GOES Hp chart) later on Friday, a little after noon New York time [“UTC” is currently New York + 4/5 hours], and that it was short — mostly over before midnight. Those of you out west never had a chance; it was all over before the sun set. Only people in far western Europe had good timing. Whatever the media was saying about later Friday night and Saturday night was somewhere between uninformed and out of date.  Your best bet was to be looking at this chart, which would have shown you that (despite predictions, which for auroras are always quite uncertain) there was nothing going on after Friday midnight New York time.

But the second reason is something that the figure doesn’t show. Even though this was a strong geomagnetic storm (the Kp index reached 7, the strongest in quite some time), the auroras didn’t migrate particularly far south. They were seen in the northern skies of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, but not (as far as I know) in Massachusetts. Certainly I didn’t see them. That just goes to show you (AccuWeather, and other media, are you listening?) that predicting the precise timing and extent of auroras is educated guesswork, and will remain so until current knowledge, methods and information are enhanced. One simply can’t know for sure how far south the auroras will extend, even if the impact on the geomagnetic field is strong.

For those who did see the auroras on Friday night, it was quite a sight. And for the rest of us who didn’t see them this time, there’s no reason for us to give up. Solar maximum is not over, and even though this is a rather weak sunspot cycle, the chances for more auroras over the next year or so are still pretty good.

Finally, a lesson for those who went out and stared at the sky for hours after the storm was long over — get your scientific information from the source!  There’s no need, in the modern world, to rely on out-of-date media reports.

66 responses to “Why did so few people see Auroras on Friday night?

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  6. Why electric poles are separated unlike magnetic poles ?
    What influence magnetism or cosmic inflation makes to separate electric charges ?
    What happens to charges when magnetism is monopole ?
    Why electron is negatively charged, eventhough it consists electron and positron (any symmetry breaking by magnetism or Higgs h) ? – what it’s relation to electron’s mass and size ?

    • … What influence magnetism or cosmic inflation makes, to separate electric charges – I mean, “involution”.
      There is both – ve charge and + ve charge, at once – but due to quantum decoherence we measure only negative charge ?

      • If you are asking whether magnetism or inflation somehow ‘hides’ a positive charge that accompanies a negative charge then no. Firstly inflation is no longer occurring (And universal expansion is a large scale phenomena.) If it were responsible in some way when we made say, electrons we’d be able to measure both charges. magnetism is just electric charge turned about, so that’s the same as asking if light causes light to be bright.

        Electrons are not made of negative electrons and positive positrons; this is a misunderstanding of another article here. They are made of negative electrons and negative ‘anti-positrons’ (Positrons are made of positrons and ‘anti-electrons’.) It is in fact impossible for symmetry breaking to mix particles with different charges (among other things.)

        The electron has no ‘size’ it is a ‘point particle’. Its mass is (roughly) related to how strongly its constituent particles is mixed by the Higgs field.

        • Thank you Kudzu, my doubt is, space expanded (inflation), magnetic monopole became dipole. After a distance of “c” photons released.
          Bound electron and core proton&neutron were like cloud. Electron separated by energy as a charge into EM field extended and diminishes at distance – unlike color confinement.

          So the speed of light is constant at EM – means, magnetism keep poles of the charges within speed of light – but according to distances, attractive or repulsive.
          It is correct or not ?

          • … Sorry “bond electrons”.
            I think there is no discreet borders between electron, proton and neutron.
            Inflation was stopped before color charges would separate ?

          • Right, so I think you are suggesting that magnetic monopoles are like protons, a bound state of electromagnetic ‘things’ and that inflation caused these to be torn apart into dipoles, electrons and photons, our current ‘usual stuff’.

            The big problem with using inflation to explain things is that it occurred before nearly everything else; after it ended particles were produced. (Protons and neutrons didn’t even form until ‘long after’ inflation ended.) While it would have torn apart any ‘pre-universal’ structures it tends to come too late to do anything.

            Inflation would also disrupt protons and neutrons; color confinement is powerless against a large enough spatial expansion rate. What matters is the force’s strength. If you look up ‘big rip’ scenarios you will see this. First gravity is overcome as galaxies, then star systems fail, then electromagnetism as ordinary matter breaks up then finally the strong force as protons and neutrons are destroyed.

            Right now we’re not asking ourselves ‘Why are monopoles impossible?’ but ‘ARE monopoles impossible?’ Maybe a theory will arise or be proven that gives us an explanation for their absence and we’ll be able to say ‘There are no monopoles because of X’ There are already theories that don’t predict them.

            On the other hand, maybe we’ll actually detect them tomorrow; people are looking. Many theories predict monopoles produced after inflation. They are similar to dark matter particles in that they are hard to create but those produced after inflation should be detectable. (Current experiments suggest they must be heavier than 600 GeV/c2.)

            So at the moment we don’t have a proven explanation for why there are no monopoles because we’re not sure they’re not right under 9or passing through!) our noses.

            Also to answer you earlier question, just like an electric charge makes a ‘bar magnet’ (+ and – magnetic charge.) a magnetic monopole would make a ‘bar electric’ (+ and – electric charge in one particle.)

          • Thank you Mr. Kudzu, I agree 100% with you – particularly, the first and last paragraphs of your comment (sept 19, 5:22) is awesome to me.

            The parameters of monopole you mentioned in first and last paragraphs are the “manifestation of space itself” – is my deep belief.

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    Quantities associated with measurements, such as the average momentum of a particle, are derived from the wavefunction by mathematical operations that describe its interaction with observational devices.

    Today we know that gluons are massless. The strong nuclear power has nevertheless a short range, this is it, that the gluons attract Each other and so nuclear power to shield. So, there is not a Higgs particle that gives mass to the gluons.

    The Higgsfeld (and not about the Higgs particle) gives all other particles their mass – but a large part of the observed mass in fact goes back to the binding energy in the protons and neutrons.
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    Higgs only proposed Higgs mechanism not the Higgs particle. Higgs in his paper was clearly mentioned that “through higgs mechanism only GLUONS give mass to proton – not higgs particles” !

    By spontaneous symmetry breaking, only W and Z bosons can acquire mass (the particles, which are responsible for the conversion of a particle type to another (and thus for the radioactivity)) – because of Radioactive “DECAY” – in which photons acquired no mass ?!

    • Radioactivity, like many things, is an increase in entropy. There are some processes where energy is converted into mass. Physical information is not lost during radioactive decay. In theory nothing should be able to cause such information to be lost. (Black holes thus have an ‘information paradox.’)

      Gluons do not interact with the Higgs field, other particles also do not such as gravitons. Quarks appear to gain mass via the Higgs mechanism though top and bottom quarks have a small mass compared to a proton. (Particles containing say, strange quarks owe a larger percentage of their mass to their quarks.)

      Certainly if electroweak symmetry breaking acts as we think it does then quarks must have at least some mass.

      • Good, all in the first paragraph are true when, they obey Lorentz invariance and relativity. In that sense Higgs mechanism was intended to pions – but did not work. But worked for weak force carriers.
        Entropy increases because there is some information lost to heat bath.
        But inside proton the situation is different. We cannot extrapolate or perturbation by higgs particle, like in W, Z, electron ball and spring function – because we cannot separate (ball and spring) quarks and gluons (color confienment) ?

        • … Information is out of quantum decoherence, reduces uncertanity. So theoritically, like SM, information is not lost but without mass and gravity ?
          (if we consider mass is a chaotic information of true vacuum – and we are in false vacuum).

          • While an electron cannot exceed the speed of light this has little to do with how fast it is moving around most nuclei. Indeed it is difficult to say the electron is ‘moving’ in the way we usually consider movement. In a hydrogen atom for example en electron’s ‘speed’ (If it were orbiting like a planet) wouldn’t even make 1% of c. In very heavy atoms such as mercury there is a relativistic effect due to the incredibly charged nucleus pulling electrons so close.

            Gluons do not exceed the speed of light; being massless they move AT the speed of light exactly. We have evidence for this but certainly none for faster-than-light speeds. (If we did, if *anything* moved faster than c then whoever discovered it would get a Nobel prize. All of physics would change, the whole world would know. Remember the ‘faster than light neutrinos’?)

        • Physical information, like energy cannot be destroyed. It is not ‘lost’ to the ‘heat bath’ it simply changes. Order and information are separate things; a pile of ashes and smoke has the same physical information as the book that was burned.

          One of the interesting results of the LHC and high energy collisions is that we *can* separate out quarks from gluons (And vice versa.) to some extent. In the case of top quarks this is 100%; they do not last long enough to ‘settle’ into a hadron.This has in fact allowed us to very accurately test QCD predictions and the properties of quarks.

          • Thank you Mr. Kudzu.

          • The more squashed the ELECTRON cloud gets, the more spread-out the range of momenta has to get. That’s called Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. It could quit moving if it spread out more, but that would mean not being as near the nucleus, and having higher potential energy. Big momenta mean big kinetic energies. So the cloud can lower its potential energy by squishing in closer to the nucleus, but when it squishes in too far its kinetic energy goes up (IT CANNOT EXCEED THE SPPED OF LIGHT “c”) more than its potential energy goes down. So it settles at a happy medium, with the lowest possible energy, and that gives the cloud and thus the atom its size.

            But actually inside proton, the gluons movement exceeds the the speed of light – due to absence of color separation and monopole type, color confinement – unlike photons, which separate charges – but lacks an electric charge ?

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  19. It may already have been noted in some other thread, but the Planck satellite folks have posted a paper on BICEP2’s findings: see

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  22. Tony Rotz(Racz)

    I don’t think the Plank findings totally rule out the Bicep findings, merely cast some doubt. As for Auroras they seem to always find the very late nights or early mornings to become visible. Tough to pull oneself out of bed.

  23. What Me Worry?

    In Time dilation, clock tick slow at mass concentration and tick fast at away from mass concentration.
    But according to Uncertainty principle, the electron nearing the nucleus (Mass Concentration) will get more kinetic energy and move fast, thats why it is not falling into nucleus.
    Now, more movement means less concentration of mass, more “SPACE” and more speed. Nearing the speed of light, there will be no mass – only Energy – all maas as movement energy (Gluon ?).
    Photons in closed box can create black holes – but photons are electromagnetic – unlike gluons separate charges.
    Then there is no Rest Mass – NO FORMATION OF Black Hole !

    • An electron nearing the nucleus of an atom does not get more kinetic energy, indeed its total energy decreases; what happens is some of its potential energy becomes kinetic. (And some is emitted as photons.) The uncertainty principle does not cause this, indeed it OPPOSES this. The electron would ‘like’ to fall into the nucleus and lose all its energy, being destroyed. But the UP tells it that it cannot lose all its energy.

      When it comes to accelerating a mass such as an electron things are different. An electron will spontaneously fall towards a nucleus, *releasing* energy, but to get one up to light speed something external needs to *add* energy. You are right in saying that the ‘concentration of mass’ decreases, but that is just because there is so much energy. At light speed a particle would still have its mass, but it would also have infinite energy.

      Current theories state that all mass is some sort of energy. Particles ‘start out’ massless then things happen that give them some sort of potential or movement energy. Of course this is what we expect, ‘e=mc^2’ tells us that mass and energy are the same thing.

      • Thankful Mr. Kudzu, you have properly learned Quantum mechanics mathematics and its axioms – which I was struck with, after my bachelor Physics.
        To circumvent “The uncertainty principle does not cause this, indeed it OPPOSES this” this, to go otherside, I got intuition complication.
        But if you recogonize “Now, more movement means less concentration of mass, more “SPACE” and more speed” this – I feel Iam in otherside.

  25. ….all mass as movement energy..

  26. Dr. Strassler :
    We need your reflections about the dusting of the BICEP 2 by the Planck readings .

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