We have developed an optical aurora detector in my lab. This instrument measures the brightness of auroral light and sends out cell phone text messages or emails notifying interested people of the opportunity to see an aurora (

We also rely on the old-fashioned approach of watching the sky and calling each other when something good is happening:
Physics Department Aurora Calling Tree

Here is a time-lapse image sequence taken in the early morning (~1:30 am) on March 9, 2012, with a mild aurora low on the northern horizon just east of Bozeman, Montana. This movie displays 2 frames per second, with each frame containing a 2-second exposure taken at 3-second intervals (i.e., the video displays 6 times faster than real time). Each photograph was taken with a Nikon D300 camera set at ISO1250 and a Nikon 35-mm lens set at f/2. Images copyright Joseph A. Shaw - use only with permission and credit.

Another particularly nice opportunity came on Saturday night and early Sunday morning, May 14-15, 2005, when we were treated to a wonderful display of the Aurora Borealis in Bozeman, Montana. The photos shown here were taken by Joseph Shaw with a Nikon D70 camera and 10.5 mm fisheye lens. Please use these only with proper credit to the photographer.
Contact me to obtain further information, to see additional images, or to see high-resolution images.

All images copyright Joseph A. Shaw ... use only with permission and credit.  

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Dr. Joseph A. Shaw - Montana State University - Bozeman, Montana