The auroral forecast goes mobile

The auroral forecast goes mobile

The auroral forecast operated as a service from the Kjell Henriksen Observatory (KHO) is now available for mobile telephones (Android v 1.5 or higher).

9 September 2011
Text: Fred Sigernes, UNIS professor in Optics and Atmospheric Research

The auroral forecast service at KHO is now available as a mobile application for phones that runs on the android operating system (version 1.5 and up). The program forecasts up to 1 hour in time the size and location of the auroral ovals, mapped on to a solar illuminated globe.

The program obtains size and location of the impact zones of energetic particles from the Sun, i.e. a circular belt of auroral emissions around each geomagnetic pole. These belts are known as the auroral ovals.

The relationship between the morphology of the auroral oval and the level of geomagnetic activity allows us to develop models of the location of the aurora, independent of the vagaries of auroral observations.

In addition, new models have evolved that use data of particle precipitation measured by polar orbiting satellites.

The two methods by Starkov (1994) and Zhang & Paxton (2008) are used to mathematically calculate the size and location of the auroral oval mapped onto a solar illuminated Earth globe.

Both models only use planetary Kp index and time as input, which makes them ideal candidates for forecasting aurora when the predicted Kp value is estimated by the Space Weather Prediction Centre (NOAA-SWPC) using satellite data one hour upstream in the solar wind.

The program is freeware and can be downloaded from “Aurora Forecast” on the Kjell Hneriksen Observatory homepage.

References
Starkov G. V., Mathematical model of the auroral boundaries, Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, 34 (3), 331-336, 1994.

Zhang Y., and L. J. Paxton, An empirical Kp-dependent global auroral model based on TIMED/GUVI data, J. Atm. Solar-Terr. Phys., 70, 1231-1242, 2008.

Acknowledgements
We wish to thank the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – Space Weather Prediction Centre for allowing us to download the predicted value of the estimated Kp index every 15 minutes.

The work is financially supported by The Research Council of Norway through the project named: Norwegian and Russian Upper Atmosphere Co-operation On Svalbard part 2 # 196173/S30 (NORUSCA2), the Nordic Council of Ministers: Arctic Cooperation Programme # A10162, and COST action ES0803.

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