[This text was sent to spaceweather.com along with some pics] Ohmigosh! What an evening! Had a gut feeling that tonight would be great so I headed over to the campus observatory about 6pm (Univ. of Maryland Observatory, just inside I-495 aka the Beltway). It was still dusk of course, but the north was purplish. One of my assistants and another professor were already there just setting up scopes, but I dragged them out and they concurred that the aurora was visible. (We also saw some last night 29 Oct between 7:50-8pm). As the evening progressed the show got better. I've attached 3 pics from the most spectacular display (very intense red), but later on we saw the aurora extend pretty far south with a few green swirls overhead and south of the zenith. In fact, we thought it was getting foggy at first until we realized how the coloration was changing! At one point, I could've pointed the camera pretty much anywhere in the sky and have gotten the aurora! The most spectacular displays were between 6:30ish and 7:45, but there was pretty much a dim red glow to the north all the way until 8:45pm (when I left to come back to my office to download and send pics to you!) and probably still is but I can't see it here on the main part of campus with all of the building lights.
These images were taken with a Canon D30 camera with a 28-135mm lens set at 28mm, about 10 sec exposures in raw mode. (I also took some pics with slide film but those will have to wait until tomorrow!) I talked to my dad in Murfreesboro, TN, and he also saw the displays as well as to a friend in SC (cell phones are great!). Another friend headed out to Haymarket (?) and will hopefully be sending in some pics as well!
My funny story... Was at the observatory helping a group of students out on their satellite observing project. After they finished and left about 7pm, I started to do some imaging just to practice with the equipment, etc. Meanwhile a lab class was arriving over at the lecture hall. Then I hear kids voices so I go out and there's a guy walking up with his 2 kids. We get that alot -- people coming in to the Observatory if they see the gate open... we usually close the gate behind us for safety reasons... Well, I was going through my spiel (we're not open to the public tonight, you'll need to leave; these TAs are paid to teach their lab, not give tours' etc...) walking them back to the car when I look to the north... Now I've been staring at a computer screen with the red light setting so my vision is kinda screwy but there was something odd about the north. I asked the guy, he didn't notice anything at first, but then the display started to brighten a little, at least become more obvious. I went in to the lecture hall and hollered for that lab to come out, went a grabbed the Dr. Wellnitz who was working on the 20" telescope, and grabbed my camera. So it was kind of bad because I was telling the guy that the liklihood of us seeing anything from the Observatory would be very small and then we see the aurora! As soon as I get my slides back and scanned, I'll try to post something here.
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