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November 7, 2004

A directly Earth-directed X1 flare blasted past the our magnetosphere last night around 7pm on up to around midnight, and oh my what a show it was.

A buddy and I packed up our gear and drove up to a spot I like just this side of the Snohomish river valley along Highway 9 and could readily see a bright hydrogen arc as well as some curtains to the west, north, south and directly overhead. It was obvious this was going to be quite a show. But by 9 the fog from the valley had blown in so we headed south back up Highway 9 to a clearing towards the top of the hill. By this time the storm was at its visual peak. It was covering the entire sky. Bright rays, vast curtains and the most amazing auroral corona directly overhead. It was so bright that we were able to switch from ISO800@60secs to ISO400@15 secs and were risking over saturation!

After about 45 minutes we drove to another vantage point at the very top of the hill near a water tower and cell tower. Here's where the storm grew most interesting. I've seen a lot of Aurora, being fortunate to experience the solar maximum prior to this last one in northern Minnesota. But I have never seen a storm like this one. While the actual curtains had faded almost as if the storm had ended, the sky started pulsating in waves. At first I thought it might be a car driving up the road illiminating the tress, but it was waves of electrons pulsing out of the Earth into space. It would occur in multiple flashes per second, illuminating rays for fractions of seconds and it travelled up and out of the magnetic poles. It was one of the most exhilrating things I've seen. This lasted for a good hour and a half. While the pulses were too fleeting for the camera, they were a delight for the eyes.

Turns out this was the 9th largest magnetic storm ever recorded:

Date..........Dst(min) [nT]
--------------------------
14.03.1989........-589
20.11.2003........-465 *
15.07.1959........-429
13.09.1957........-427
11.02.1958........-426
30./31.10.2003....-401 *
26.05.1967........-387
31.03.2001........-387
07/08.11.2004.....-383 *
29./30.10.2003....-363 *
09.11.1991........-354

crw 5780

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crw 5780