1957–58, the International Geophysical Year

The International Geophysical Year (actually a year and a half, from July 1957 to December 1958) saw the beginning of the “space race,” and the collection of a huge amount of valuable data. The science books I grew up with as a child were constantly referring to the results of the event.

The IGY, as it was abbreviated, included several solar eclipses (23 Oct 57, 19 Apr 58, 12 Oct 58) as well as the record-breaking solar maximum of 1957/58. In fact, February 11, 1958 turned out to be a very good night for Aurora chasers.

The IGY incorporated, among other activities:


Perhaps the world can use more collaborative efforts like the IGY.


Blogroll: AntarcticArctic

AntarcticArctic is a blog by a “Waste Management Specialist” at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station over the dark Antarctic winter. It has covered several interesting topics, such as the Aurora Australis and Aurora Borealis (see satellite image below).

I’m not sure if the blog will survive its author’s return to warmer climes – but, through both words and photographs, it has succeeded in sharing a perspective on our planet that most of us will never experience.

Aurora chasers

Aurora Borealis (photo: Chad Blakley, lightsoverlapland.com)

The Aurora Australis and Aurora Borealis make for spectacular images, like the ones above and below. It is not surprising that some keen photographers are on the lookout for the perfect viewing opportunity.

Aurora Borealis seen from Alaska (photo: SrA Joshua Strang, USAF)

The aurorae become more visible during geomagnetic storms, so that the planetary Kp index of geomagnetic activity is a rough guide to visibility (with location-based visibility thresholds shown in NOAA maps for Australia & NZ, Eurasia, and North America). Aurora forecasts based on Kp and other space weather factors are available for Australia & NZ, Europe, and North America.

Finally, let me mention two handbooks for Aurora chasers – one new (aimed at the South) and one from 1992 (aimed at the North):

The Aurora Chaser's Handbook, by Margaret Sonnemann (2013)            The Aurora Watcher's Handbook, by Neil Davis (1992)