About Dunedin Aurora

Dunedin Aurora had it's beginnings as a project in 2015 for our Bachelors degree in IT. (Us being Chris Campbell and Vaughn Malkin). Chris's bright idea of hassling Dr Ian Griffin, Director of Otago Museum turned out rather well, as we were allowed to play with expensive pieces of kit - a precessing proton magnetometer and a fluxgate magnetometer - to try implement project for Ian of an aurora-predicting and monitoring website.

The Hardware and Software setup

For those interested in some of the technical details, Dunedin Aurora consists of:

Magnetometer and associated hardware
The original fluxgate device failed and so local data is provided by a Geometrics G-857 magnetometer. This talks to a local PC running custom software written in Python that logs the data locally and uploads readings to a database. There is an external WiFI connection between the mag and it's PC and a standard home VDSL internet connection. A remote site with power and data is one of the challenges for us as the magnetometer is extraordinarily sensitive to domestic interferance like powerlines and appliances. Plus the fact that this entire project runs on 100% goodwill, and we don't have cash to splash around buying remote paddocks...

In an effort to improve the resilience of the website to hardware failure in any one device, we also use data from the DISCOVR and GOES-15 satellites as well as a two "homebrew" analogue magnetometers and an all-sky camera hosted by an amateur astronomer.

Website and Software
We use DigitalOcean to host a server which runs the website as well as custom software that acts as an interface to the different hardware we access. This also helps to buffer the websites performance from any issues with the database, quirky hardware, and other issues.

Other custom software exists on the server to provide some of the analytics and forecasting needed.

photo of the compost bins housing the magnetometers

The magnetometers live inside here, we promise.Copyright 2015 © Project Helios

The two magnetometers at the core of our project are a 3-axis fluxgate device from the SAM Magnetometer Project and a G-857 precessing proton magnetometer from Geometrics. Both of these devices talk to on-site hardware where we use custom software to collect the data, process and database it. Our website then displays this information in real-time


Dunedin Aurora could not exist without the following people:

Dr Ian Griffin & Otago Museum
Ian is Director of Otago Museum. Ian was the original client for our degree project, but since then has continued to allow us to play with the Museum's toys. His energy and enthusiasm for all things sciencey and aurora-y (?) is astonishing!

Chris Campbell & Vaughn Malkin
Since graduating, Chris spends much of his time working miracles for the customers of a local wireless comms provider and gets his arm twisted to provide network and hardware support for Dunedin Aurora - plus he's the guy with a car!

Vaughn torments first year students by teaching I.T. at the local polytechnic, and is responsible for mushing together the background code that makes Dunedin Aurora tick. Occasionally things become unmushed.

Aurora Australis Facebook Group
A big inspiration is the Aurora Australis facebook group (See the Resources Page). The range of people interested in the art, science, and love of photographing the aurora and the night sky is a delight. We count ourselves lucky to be part of their ranks.