Star Gazing and Aurora 2023-02-16 Morning (Fairbanks, AK, USA)
When I got up this morning at around 3:30am AKST, I was surprised to see "few clouds" in the PAFA hourly report. NWS surface report showed a higher pressure over much of northern two-thirds of Alaska, though with a low pressure trough some ways south of Fairbanks, and the cloud cover showing in GOES basically harmonized with that. Temps were down to -19 deg F. This was all contrary to the weather forecasting which had shown at least 50% cloud coverage and lows of only -11 deg F. So, I was a bit confused, but I decided to rush down to the boat launch.
When I arrived, I was happy to be greeted with a phenomenal Aurora display that was dynamic green and pink, and covered much of the sky, in north, south, and west directions especially. At one point, toward the south, I could distinquish three dynamic and distinct layers, with the middle layer curving into a circle shape in the middle. Unfortunately I did not get any photographs. I was aware yesterday of Kp4-Kp5 geomagnetic storm conditions, but I didn't think I would get to observe any Aurora because of the cloudy weather forecasts.
this morning's Kp report from http://www.theusner.eu/terra/aurora/kp.php
With the aurora going on, even making it somewhat difficult to see the stars, I decided to not use the telescope, but do mainly naked eye stargazing. I played around with the binocs, but it was so cold that it was difficult to use them much. Temps dropped down to -22 deg F by the time I left, around 5:30am. I did, however, have a decent view of constellations to the north and to the west, and have a pretty good memory of Gemini, Auriga, Perseus, and Cassiopia:
north-west view in Stellarium
north-west view in Stellarium, with constellation art
I focused on Cassiopia especially, which for some reason was more clear.
Cassiopia, zoomed in
I also noticed a dot about 5 degrees SE of Ruchbah (δ Cas) which was blinking briefly about once a second, for about a minute. Airplane...?
It was pretty cold out, which created some challenges, but I am thankful for another wonderful opportunity to see the Creator's amazing light display in the Aurora and in the stars.