Aurora viewing from Seattle, basic info, tips, locations and resources.
Summary: ALWAYS LOOK NORTH, and expect it to be dim.
Forecasts for minute-to-minute updates:
The Ovation Model  – a prediction: bright green, yellow or red overlapping Seattle means go outside and look.
Soft Serve News  – a prediction: Kp over 5 means possible aurora for Seattle, but the higher the better. If it hits 6 go outside.
Current Activity, Estimated Kp , – a measurement: Kp over 5 is good news. Remember the date/time along the bottom are in Universal Time so subtract 7 or 8 hours depending on daylight savings.
Advanced Solar Wind Charge/Direction  – a measurement: scroll down. On the left under “Real Time Solar Wind” is a little speedometer thing labeled “Bz.” When this is pointed towards S/-50/Red we have better auroras in the Northern Hemisphere. When it is pointed the other way, the Southern Hemisphere has better aurora.
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center  – LOTS of info in one place.
Cloudcover prediction for tonight at 11pm:
What: Possible aurora types: Slight greenish tinge, perhaps brighter columns or curtains in the sky, or a diffuse red glow. Do not be tricked by the normal red/yellow glow from downtown Seattle.
When: Use Timeanddate.com  to convert aurora prediction times from UTC to Pacific Daylight or Standard Time.
Where: Always look North for aurorae. When clouds are predicted over Puget Sound, so I recommend viewing from Lake Kachess just past Snoqualmie Pass, or even further East. There may also be chances from Sequim or north of Everett.
How: A digital camera with a long exposure will be better at detecting the slightest glow than your eye, but once it gets bright enough you won’t need the camera anymore.
Tips (from my Twitter stream):
- Alice’s Aurora Tip #1: Be patient, keep an eye on the data (see links below) until you see something. Then turn off the data and enjoy.
- Alice’s Aurora Tip #2: Look North. Be in a dark place.
- Alice’s Aurora Tip #3: Bring a digital camera or phone with a long-exposure setting. Long-exposure images gather more light than your eye with long exposures you may see the aurora first in a viewfinder, and with your eye as it brightens.
- Alice’s Aurora Tip #4: It is usually hard to see from Seattle, even when visible. Give your eyes a chance to adapt. Enjoy the stars too.
When Kp levels surpass 5 it is worth starting to check in. In Seattle, we hope for Kp levels of 6 or greater for the best chance to see the aurora. I explained Kp over here .
*NEW* Recommended Viewing Locations:
My general stargazing location recommendations .