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Revamped Web page has interactive elements for aurora watchers

Submitted by Amy Hartley
Phone: (907) 474-5823

09/27/06

Photo caption below.
Photo by Jan Curtis, courtesy the Geophyscial Institute, UAF
Fairbanks averages 243 nights per year of aurora activity. However, some of these nights occur during the summer when Fairbanks is enjoying nearly 24 hours of daylight, and the aurora, like the stars, requires a clear dark sky to be seen.

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With just a few clicks, aurora watchers can go online and find out when to anticipate aurora activity and where they can see it. The Geophysical Institute Aurora Forecast Web page has undergone a major revamp to include a one-hour forecast, a 28-day forecast and much more, all found at www.gedds.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast.

Public input spurred changes to the Web page that receives about 20,000 hits per month during the aurora-viewing season. Users recommended forecasters update maps on the site that provide a visual for the extent of aurora coverage. The popular Web page now offers five different views of Earth that target aurora watchers from Alaska to Antarctica, demonstrating where the aurora should be seen in their region.

"We've thought for some time that we needed to make the aurora forecast page more jazzy, more interesting," said Dirk Lummerzheim, aurora forecaster and aeronomy professor. "The new page looks better and we've eliminated some of the old pitfalls."

The Web page's redesign took place in August and now it's a tool that can be used by the public and researchers alike to learn when and where to see aurora and also what creates it. The new look includes forecaster comments, solar wind graphics and data plots, the one-hour and 28-day forecasts, and a dozen links to additional information. The page also offers visitors the option of signing up for Aurora Alerts that are sent by e-mail to announce when aurora activity is predicted to reach a heightened state. Charles Deehr, forecaster and professor emeritus of physics, said about 11,000 people receive the aurora alerts, many of whom discuss the information at the Aurora Alerts Online Forum.

The Geophysical Institute is world renowned for its research on the aurora and is perfectly situated to study it. Located in Fairbanks, Alaska, the institute sits beneath the auroral oval, a ring-shaped region around the North Pole where auroras generally occur. Fairbanks averages 243 nights per year of aurora activity. However, some of these nights occur during the summer when Fairbanks is enjoying nearly 24 hours of daylight, and the aurora, like the stars, requires a clear dark sky to be seen.

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AURORA PHOTOS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

TO RECEIVE AURORA ALERTS: www.gi.alaska.edu/mailman/listinfo/gse-aa

CONTACT: Charles Deehr, professor emeritus of physics, Geophysical Institute at (907) 474-7473. Dirk Lummerzheim, aeronomy professor, Geophysical Institute at(907) 474-7564. Amy Hartley, Geophysical Institute information officer, at (907) 474-5823.