The AuroraMAX Project is a public outreach initiative dedicated to monitoring the intensity and frequency of the aurora borealis above Yellowknife, Northwest Territories through and beyond Solar Maximum, the peak of an 11-year sunspot cycle.
Sunspots are regions of intense magnetic activity that form cooler, dark patches on the Sun’s surface that can release powerful bursts of solar wind known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Earth-directed CME eruptions can trigger vivid, brilliant auroras above Canada that last for many hours before geomagnetic field conditions return to normal. By monitoring auroral activity above Yellowknife before, during and after coronal mass ejections and other space weather events we can enhance our understanding of the colourful cause-and-effect relationship between activity the Sun and auroral activity on Earth.
AuroraMAX features an online observatory that provides Canadians with instant access to the greatest light show on Earth by featuring high-definition images and time-lapse videos of auroral activity above Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.
The AuroraMAX Project aims to:
• Raise awareness of the science and splendour of Canada’s northern lights;
• Enhance public access to aurora observation in the North and across Canada;
• Raise awareness of the cause-and-effect relationship between the Sun and Earth;
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories is located at 68° North magnetic latitude, an ideal location for auroral observation. Even when solar activity is low, auroras can be seen almost every night above Yellowknife and across northern Canada.
AuroraMAX enhances the Canadian Space Agency’s contribution to auroral research by collecting high definition auroral substorm data using innovative imaging technology developed by the University of Calgary. Led by space physicist Dr. Eric Donovan, the University of Calgary imaging team provides important scientific and technical support for AuroraMAX.
From late August until early May AuroraMAX computers generate a replay of overnight activity by compressing thousands of high resolution images into colourful and informative time-lapse movies. An archive of AuroraMAX Replays from 2010 to present can be found on the Canadian Space Agency website.
The AuroraMAX All-Sky Imager records the entire sky from dusk until dawn, generating observation data that enables researchers to quantify the intensity and frequency of visible auroras at 68° North magnetic latitude before, during and after Solar Maximum.