Goodbye summer, hello autumn

Last modified on September 15th, 2006

I spent a bunch of time walking around tonight with my iPod and some new music. You can definitely tell that summer is basically over, and that autumn is slowly putting its claws into Vancouver. To be honest, I’m actually glad. I love that feeling you get in the fall when you walk outside and get the cold, crisp air in your lungs. Or crawling into bed late and night when your sheets are a bit cold. Even sitting in front of the fireplace with a plate of nachos watching a movie.

A few years ago, in the fall/winter, there were a few weeks of crazy sunspot activity on the surface of the sun. When this happens, you typically get coronal mass ejections (CME), which are huge streams of electrons that are emitted from the surface of the sun. If the CME is pointed at the earth, they sometimes cause a weakening of the earth’s magnetic field. This weakening can cause the auroras to be seen closer to the equator, which on a cold autumn night a few years ago, happened here in Vancouver. Dustin and I had been watching spaceweather.com for a few days, waiting for one night when we might get to see the aurora in Vancouver. After some patience, and a few beers, we managed to see an amazing display on my rooftop kitsilano patio at around 3am one evening.

Here’s a shot that I took that night (which was latered featured on local news, and the BBC).

The Aurora

The original photos I took are on nasa’s website at http://science.nasa.gov/spaceweather/aurora/gallery_01oct03_page3.html.

What’s interesting is that while surfing the net tonight, I stumbled upon spaceweather.com again, and sure enough, a small CME happened recently that might cause auroras in parts of Alaska and Canada. So, if you’re up late at night, be sure to look up in the sky and see if you can see one. You can get a real-time view of the aurora activity (thanks to a polar orbiting satellite that monitors electric fields) at http://www.sec.noaa.gov/pmap/

I don’t really have any plans for the rest of the weekend, although I think I’ll be near my apartment most of the time. Even though I’ve been in my current apartment for over a year, I just haven’t spent much time making it “homey.” So my goal this weekend is to go get some new furniture, clean up, and somehow make my apartment habitable for the winter.