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How well do we Forecast the Aurora?

Students from St Richard Reynolds Catholic College and Dr Michaela Mooney

Catching glimpses of the northern lights, or the aurora that dance across the night sky are highly sought after by keen aurora hunters. However, the high-energy charged particles that rain down on the upper atmosphere and cause the bright auroral emission can also disrupt many essential services on Earth such as long-range radio communications used by aircraft and emergency responders. The impact of particles and radiation from our near-Earth space environment on infrastructure at Earth is known as space weather. 


Current research aims to model and predict when the aurora and other space weather phenomenon will occur to try to limit the impact on daily services. But how accurate are they? In this project, we compared auroral forecasts made by a space weather model against observations to test how well current models can forecast the aurora and how they can be improved in the future.

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