May 2024 Auroras

Between May 4 and May 8 a pair of extremely large and active sunspot groups (AR3663 and AR3664) produced multiple flares and coronal mass ejections. The particles which were released reached the Earth on May 10. An intense auroral display was triggered, which extended to latitudes below 25°.

The Sun is near solar maximum now, and we can expect strong activity for another year, perhaps more, so there remains a good chance of more low latitude auroras in the near future.

Looking north about an hour before midnight. The high altidude red is produced by extremely rarified oxygen in the upper atmosphere, and is usually only seen during very energetic events- just the type required to extend an aurora as far south as Colorado. The lower glow is typical green (produced by denser oxygen lower in the atmosphere) mixed somewhat with Denver light pollution, about 100 km north. The evening was very cloudy, but I was lucky to have a few short breaks open up so I could see and image this aurora. 10-second exposure, Canon 7D, ISO 1600, 50mm lens.


Looking southeast about an hour before midnight. The low orange glow is light pollution from the corridor between south Colorado Springs and Pueblo. This is usually not visible, but the low clouds in that direction appear to be picking it up. 10-second exposure, Canon 7D, ISO 1600, 50mm lens.


An animated sequence from one of my allsky cameras (normally used for collecting meteor trails). This starts in late twilight and continues until it totally clouded over at about 1am. The individual frames are 5-second exposures. You can see the red glow around the entire horizon, and at the end we appear to be seeing the cloud cover backlit by the overhead aurora, which must have been very bright.