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Welcome to Five O'Clock Somewhere, where it doesn't matter what time zone you're in; it's five o'clock somewhere. We'll look at rural life, especially as it happens in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, cats, sailing (particularly Etchells racing yachts), and bits of grammar and Victorian poetry.
moon phase info
Gerald is making coffee, preparing to go sit on a mountaintop with a friend and watch for the aurora.
Normally, we don't get auroras in New Mexico – we're too far south. But NASA has reported a massive coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun. In plain English, that means that there is an unusually strong wave of ionized particles headed our way. These particles interact with the Earth's magnetic field to create the glowing displays known as auroras.
The peak of the first wave is supposed to be about 1 a.m. MDT. Gerald's ham-radio friends are already reporting a high level of electromagnetic activity, and he's hoping not only to see the aurora but to photograph it – he does have a good camera for that sort of thing, as his pictures of Earthshine during last summer's eclipse attest.
I can recall one time when I actually did see an aurora in New Mexico. It was faint, and I'm sure it could never compare to the spectacular displays that folks further north can see. It was September, and the sun was in a phase of high activity. The high-school astronomy club had a star party (if I remember correctly, it was to look at a comet) in the very small hours of the morning. We saw very faint wispy glowing streaks, in pale yellow and green. It was not exactly spectacular, but it was an aurora – in New Mexico.
In honor of the aurora, here is Walt Kelly, the creator of the Pogo Possum comic strip:
Oh, roar a roar for Nora,
Nora Alice in the night.
For she has seen Aurora
Borealis burning bright.
A furore for our Nora!
And applaud Aurora seen!
Where, throughout the summer, has
Our Borealis been?
For more about the CME, check out NASA's official announcement.