The landscape was ablaze with red light. Dogs began barking but no one on the little country road came from their houses to see what was happening in the sky.

 

The display continued until about 9pm local time. The aurora can change rapidly, and within the span of just a few minutes, it faded to near invisibility. Watch was kept throughout the night but only a diffuse red glow in the north was seen until it too faded around 2am.

 

The auroral display of October 30, 2003 will be remembered for many years to come.  - GW

Copyright 2007 Starry Mirror and Glen Ward

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REMEMBERING THE GREAT AURORA OF 2003

486

The Sun on October 29, 2003.

BRIDGEPORT, WV (S-M) - At mid-northern latitudes like S-M's location here in West Virginia, aurorae are rare enough that one will surely remember any display seen. The aurora of October 30, 2003 will live in memory for all who saw it.

 

Solar activity was relatively low during early October 2003, with the Sun's face being nearly blank. Things picked up at mid-month. Soon there were two sunspots so huge they could be seen with the naked eye. Giant sunspot 486 emerged on October 24 and began spawning X-class solar flares. A flare on October 29 caused the Sun's corona to eject a mass of gas and charged particles in Earth's direction. When the coronal mass ejection arrived on October 30, it would spawn one of the most severe geomagnetic storms in recent memory.

Word arrived about noon on the 30th of the start of the geomagnetic storm. Things looked good for a display of the northern lights in the more southerly latitudes. As darkness fell, we set out for our country location to get the best view.

 

As we drove, it became clear that we would not be disappointed. While still bright twilight, a green aurora appeared in the east-northeast. The intensity of the colors in an aurora cannot be captured in photographs. We drove on with one eye on the road and the other on the aurora

 

Soon we arrived at our observing site and were greeted by a bright red pillar of light, some 20 degrees high, in the north east. The pillar grew and moved into the northern sky - in fact, we had the impression that perhaps the Earth was actually turning under the aurora. Soon, the northern sky was alive with a massive red glow, 70 degrees wide and extending to almost overhead. White vertical pillars appeared in the red haze and one had the definite impression of being treated to the sight of magnetic field lines at work.  (cont. below)

Glen Ward

Glen Ward

Glen Ward