It’s the start of the aurora season in Canada. And for the first time ever, we can all watch nature’s most spectacular light show live from the comfort of our own armchair.
The wonder of the northern lights, or aurora borealis, is being broadcast on the internet every night thanks to the Canadian Space Agency.
The agency has launched the AuroraMAX online observatory which will stream the mystical lights live – just log on to one of the broadcasts and watch them dance on your screen.
The CSA has teamed up on the project with the University of Calgary, the City of Yellowknife and Astronomy North which will show the aurora above Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
As well as offering the live broadcasts from 10pm to 6am MST, the site aims to explain a bit about the science of the phenomenon as well as offering tips on how to watch and photograph auroras.
And don’t worry if you miss it, you can log on the next day to catch up on the previous night’s performance. It’s more captivating than Corrie. Meanwhile, there’ll be plenty of information on the Canadians’ research into the Sun-Earth relationship.
“We hope that watching the dance of the northern lights will make you curious about the science of the sky,” says CSA president Steve MacLean. “And the relationship we have with our own star, the Sun.”
Auroras occur when charged particles from the sun collide with gases in the earth’s upper atmosphere, resulting in a ribbon of lights displayed across the night sky.
The launch of the website coincides with the start of aurora season in northern Canada – which usually lasts until May.
The Astronomy North website explains that the AuroraMAX Online Observatory features broadcasts using “Canada’s most advanced colour aurora camera, the AuroraMAX All-Sky Imager”, plus two additional digital SLR cameras with 180 degree fisheye lenses.
According to the CSA, aurora enthusiasts will be able to follow AuroraMAX through solar maximum – the most active period of the sun’s 11-year cycle which should produce more frequent and intense auroras on earth.
For those not already in the know, solar maximum is currently expected in 2013.
Hardcore fans can also get regular aurora alerts and updates on the AuroraMAX Twitter.
Alerts so far have included: “Coronal hole to fuel auroras in Yellowknife on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sunspot 1108 could produce possible C-Class flare” and “Bright moonlight and no aurora observed at local midnight. Current wind speed is 444.7 km/sec. Visibility is low.”