Spot the northern lights with Aurorasaurus

Crowdsourced project alerts users when aurora is visible near them

An aurora in Greenland

SKY FIRE  The Aurorasaurus project tracks sightings of auroras, such as this one that lit up the skies of Greenland in October 2013.

Mads Pihl/Visit Greenland/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The Twitterverse can help you catch a glimpse of the shimmering northern lights. The NASA-backed Aurorasaurus project uses crowdsourcing to assemble a real-time map of aurora sightings around the Northern Hemisphere. Aurora-related tweets and reports made by citizen scientists feed in to the project through its smartphone apps and website.

Aurorasaurus got its first major test in March, when the sun spat out a massive flare of charged particles toward Earth. Collisions between these particles and the nitrogen and oxygen in the upper atmosphere produced blue-green auroras seen from as far south as Colorado. Aurorasaurus volunteers submitted more than 160 sightings of the northern lights and verified more than 250 tweets as genuine sightings. Thanks to these reports, Aurorasaurus sent 361 notifications to users alerting them of a nearby visible aurora and helping them check “see the northern lights” off their bucket lists.

AURORA ALERT  A giant burst of charged particles from the sun bombarded Earth’s atmosphere on March 17, sparking auroras across the Northern Hemisphere’s higher latitudes. Tweets (blue pins) and reports from citizen scientists (green pins) helped the Aurorasaurus project map sightings in and around the auroral zone (lavender), where most auroras appear.

Credit: Aurorasaurus

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