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:

Magnetometers and associated hardware
Magnetometers power the core functions at Dunedin Aurora. These devices measure minute fluctations in the Earth's magnetic field. Space weather events literally impact our magnetic field, producing characteristics surges and pulsations that can be recorded and analysed.

We use a range of device types, from the sophisticated Geometrics G-857 magnetometer owned by Otago Museum, to magnetometers on the GOES satellites, to reproductions of classical variometers. All these devices produce useful information that can tell us something about what is happening above our heads. The variety of devices provides us with resilience to hardware problems, as well as giving Citizen Scientists an opportunity to share their contributions with us.

We also host imagery from an all-sky camera located off-site.

Website and Software
We use DigitalOcean to host a server which runs our website. This server also runs the custom software that we have written that grabs data from a range of sources, creates dynamic content for the website, provides some basic analysis and crunches stuff down into information that is useful to aurora watchers.
Satellites!
Sadly, we dont actually own our own satellite, but we do make use of public domain satellite data and imagery. This is used to power out solar wind forecasting.
photo of the compost bins housing the magnetometers

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

Magnetic sensors called "Magnetometers" are still important to what we do as they let us see what the space weather environment is doing to the Earth's magnetic field. Because we connect directly to them, our information is current with very little delay.

Our favourite device is the G-857 precessing proton magnetometer from Geometrics on loan from Otago Museum. Manmade interferance can be challenging for us, so we also use incorporate data from arange of other devices ranging from satellite sensors to analogue variometers to prove a wholistic view of what our magnetic field is doing.

Acknowledgements

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.