Stable Auroral Red Arc over Northern Arizona

A strong geomagnetic storm a few days ago (05 Nov 2023) triggered brilliant auroras over high and middle latitudes. At lower latitudes a different phenomena was observed. This was a Stable Auroral Red (SAR) Arc. But this feature is neither stable nor an aurora.

A mix of green airglow and Stable Auroral Red (SAR) arc is joined by a Taurid meteor over Wupatki National Monument in northern Arizona.
A mix of green airglow and Stable Auroral Red (SAR) arc is joined by a Taurid meteor over Wupatki National Monument in northern Arizona.
A mix of green airglow and Stable Auroral Red (SAR) arc over Wupatki National Monument in northern Arizona.
A mix of green airglow and Stable Auroral Red (SAR) arc over Wupatki National Monument in northern Arizona.

From the SpaceWeather.com web site:

During this past weekend’s strong G3-class geomagnetic storm, low-latitude auroras spread as far south as Texas and Arizona. Upon further review, most of those lights were not auroras at all…

SAR arcs were discovered in 1956 at the beginning of the Space Age. Researchers didn’t know what they were and unwittingly gave them a misleading name: “Stable Auroral Red arcs” or SAR arcs. In fact, SAR arcs are neither stable nor auroras.

Auroras appear when charged particles rain down from space, hitting the atmosphere and causing it to glow. SAR arcs form differently. They are a sign of heat energy leaking into the upper atmosphere from Earth’s ring current system–a donut-shaped circuit carrying millions of amps around our planet.

Okay, so it was not an aurora. But it was still pretty amazing to witness and photograph. I even managed to capture a meteor that was part of the Taurid shower moving across the SAR.

But wait, there’s more. There was green airglow in the same part of the sky as the SAR.

Time-lapse of SAR arc and green airglow over northern Arizona (1908–2217 MST 05 November 2023.)

Summary: SAR arc, Taurid meteor,green airglow…and some coyotes.

Comet C/2023 P1 Nishamura

This comet was discovered by Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura. It was briefly visible in the morning twilight but became increasingly difficult as it got closer to the sun and was lost in the glare. It will very briefly be the evening sky this week but, again, the glare of the Sun may make it difficult to see.

Here are a few images taken in the pre-dawn hours on 08 September. In the foreground is Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.

Comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura at 0449 MST 08 September 2023.
Comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura at 0449 MST 08 September 2023.
A tight crop of the previous image.
A tight crop of the previous image.
Comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura at 0454 MST 08 September 2023. This is just a few minutes later than the previous image but the sky is already getting very bright.
Comet C/2023 P1 Nishimura at 0454 MST 08 September 2023. This is just a few minutes later than the previous image but the sky is already getting very bright.

Nikon D750, 85mm, f/2.8, ISO 3200, 10×3 seconds and stacked using Starry Landscape Stacker to reduce noise.

 

Monsoon–July 2023

A double rainbow arches above Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
A double rainbow arches above Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.

The North American Monsoon (NAM) has been slow to get started this year. A general rule of thumb is it gets going around the 4th of July and is considered late (but still normal) by mid-July. Likewise an early start can occur as early as mid June–as it did last year.

Composite image of late afternoon lightning strikes over the grasslands of Wupatki National Monument.
Composite image of late afternoon lightning strikes over the grasslands of Wupatki National Monument.
A segment of a rainbow over Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
A segment of a rainbow over Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Several lightning clusters that occurred during twilight at Wupatki National Monument.
Several lightning clusters that occurred during twilight at Wupatki National Monument.

During the month of July the GFS weather forecast model consistently showed the NAM getting started “Real Soon Now.” But the target was always several days away. Finally, late in the month the rains arrived as an inverted trough (IVT; def. 2) moved across Arizona.

Lightning over the San Francisco Peaks with Marshall Lake in the foreground.
Lightning over the San Francisco Peaks with Marshall Lake in the foreground.
Lightning touches down deep in Grand Canyon.
Lightning touches down deep in Grand Canyon.

There have been some photogenic storms. A little over a week ago I traveled to the South Rim of Grand Canyon hoping to get some lightning. Although there were some flashes they were far away. On the other hand, the sunset was pretty good. A band of clouds just above the horizon effectively blocked the Sun at my location while beams of light were getting under the clouds and into the canyon farther to the west. The alternating beams of light and shadow were pretty nice.

Beams of light and shadow filter deep into Grand Canyon.
Beams of light and shadow filter deep into Grand Canyon.
Beams of light and shadow filter deep into Grand Canyon.
Beams of light and shadow filter deep into Grand Canyon.

The following day I went to Wupatki National Monument in hopes of lightning and rainbows. There was a late afternoon storm that moved towards the Monument and produced a lot of lightning. As it got closer it weakened but was still dropping rain and a short time later a beautiful, full double rainbow appeared. All I needed to do was position myself so that I could get the rainbow arch to frame Wukoki Pueblo.

Time lapse of convection developing over the San Francisco Peaks with Marshall Lake in the foreground.

A new storm formed to my southeast as twilight came on and began to produce a lot of lightning. This was the 3rd act of the day and it was a good one.

Later in the week I took a short drive to Marshall Lake near Flagstaff to time lapse the early stages of convection over the San Francisco Peaks–and with some reflections in the waters of the lake. A few lightning bolts landed near the peaks adding to the show.

A few more trips to Grand Canyon rounded out the month.

And, now, the monsoon is on hiatus again.

Wupatki National Monument with Snow

There was plenty of snow in January and some events produced snow at lower elevations — including Wupatki National Monument. So I found myself at the monument in time for sunrise one morning. There was less snow that I hoped to see but still enough to add some drama to the ancient pueblos in the park.

Sunrise at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Sunrise at Wukoki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Wukoki Pueblo with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.
Wukoki Pueblo with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.

After leaving Wukoki Pueblo I went to Lomaki Pueblo.

Lomaki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Lomaki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument.
Lomaki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.
Lomaki Pueblo in Wupatki National Monument with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.

And, finally, this tuft of grass with snow.

Tuft of grass with snow.
Tuft of grass with snow.