Today on www.spaceweather.com there is a link to an interesting graph denoting the geomagnetic activity on a monthly basis.
Spaceweather says: “Statistically speaking, March is the most geomagnetically active month of the year; October is a close second. Although the reasons why are not fully understood, there is no doubt that equinoxes favor auroras.”
The activity on the sun has been in a pretty low state recently, but things are getting more active. A CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) may produce some good auroral viewing if a few variables line up. Be on the alert on March 16-17
This is also a good time to mention an article I wrote on how to photograph the aurora borealis with a digital camera. And, its a good time for me to review that article as well. Its amazing how easy it is to forget something on a dark night. Especially remember to take your filter off (if you have one on the lens), and do a focus accuracy check, either using the stars or some other bright solar object. These two are among my most popular mistakes. The latter in particular with Canon’s finicky focusing 24mm f/1.4L.
If any Nikon users have the new 24 f/1.4, I would be very keen to hear some feedback on its performance specifically with aurora or astrophotography.
People often ask when is the best time to view the aurora, and the chart shown here shows geomagnetic activity. However, the factor of weather will play a role as well. It would be interesting to see a chart that showed which months had the most clear nights, per a specific location. The arctic photo tour that Hugh Rose and I guide in October has yielded aurora photography every year for the past 8 or so, although some years are better than others. Still, working around cloudy skies and hunting for holes is not a small task.
My advice if you want to catch some possible action on March 16-17 is to plan on spending a 4 hour block of time outside, with camera ready. Statistics say that in general, from 10:00pm to 2:00am nets the best results, but in reality, you just have to be there and be ready!
I have not touched my camera since shoulder surgery, which was four weeks ago, and I just might give it a try during this potential aurora show.