The AuroraWatch UK team are happy to announce that our updated website is now live! We have made many changes, some small and some major, some visual and some hidden behind the scenes. We hope all of these changes will produce a more reliable alerts system with better accessibility for all users and devices. One thing hasn’t changed – the website URL remains as http://aurorawatch.lancs.ac.uk/.
We are now using Hugo as the content generator for our website rather than our own in-house system which was developed many years ago. The major change here is that pages should be easier to view on mobile devices (which is known as “responsive” design). The Hugo static pages are also super lightweight which means they should be fast to load – even during times of heavy traffic such as when we issue a red alert. Our new design is modern, efficient, and responsive!
New alerts algorithm
We’ve made two significant changes to the algorithm we use to detect when aurora is likely to be visible from the UK and these will roll out simultaneously with the new website. The first change is that we now monitor the magnetic field in both North-South and East-West directions (i.e., H and E components). There have been occasions when the activity was significantly East or West of the UK and was eassentially invisible to AuroraWatch UK. This should not happen now. The second change we have made is to consider the hourly range of the magnetic field values in addition to the disturbance from quiet-time levels. Previously small changes either side of our quiet-day curve did not produce an alert. With this second change the algorithm will now issue an alert.
Futhermore, the new algorithm will automatically switch to use data from another magnetometer if the data loss from our primary site at Crooktree is detected.
Updated activity charts
We’ve changed how the activity plots are displayed. We now have separate plots for the activity levels and the magnetic field values. However we have added some buttons to our front page so that you can switch between the two data plot styles. We’ve also added the option to see a stack plot of data from all of our UK magnetometers.
The activity plots now autoscale and show the next highest alert level so that you can see how close the current activity is to reaching the next alert level. We’ve added the option to view current and past data from all of our sites (see http://aurorawatch.lancs.ac.uk/plots.
We have released a new API to allow access to our alert status. We’re using the API ourselves to display the status on the front page and also in the iframe that other websites can use. If you want to know more about the API we have a page describing it. If you have any questions about the API, please do contact us.
We have now updated all relevant information, deleted that which was no longer relevant, and refreshed our FAQs. Some of this is updating is still in progress and you should see changes continue in the future.
Removed sightings page
The sightings database and page weren’t particularly easy to use, maintain, or transition to a new system. As such it has been temporarily removed but we do have plans to bring it back in one form or another…! The photography locations page, with its map including recent Flickr images, has remained.
Added a HTTPS (secure) connection
With the push to securing all web content well underway, we have taken this opportunity to make a secure version of the site available. For now, this will run alongside the normal HTTP version but we may force all traffic through HTTPS in the future. This should not affect your access to the site in anyway but please get in touch if you do have issues.
Things we didn’t change
We’ve kept the default activity plot on our main page. This is to provide you with quick access to the current status. We’ve kept the dark theme since we realise that you may well visit the site on your mobile devices whilst out aurora hunting – in which case you don’t want a glaring white screen ruining your night vision! We are keeping the blog and website separate (at least for now). We have worked really hard on making the website as lightweight as possible, both to help page loading speeds when you’re out in the rural areas aurora hunting and to keep our servers accessible during busy times. This has meant that we could not incorporate a blog and commenting system into the site as it currently stands. WordPress seems to be working for our blog for now – so we’re keeping it as it is but will review.
We have more planned for the site in the coming months. Some of this is a little boring and aimed more at the scientific community but some of them are pretty big and exciting. We’ll share more when we have definitive details!
Any issues with the new site? Spotted an error or run into a bug? Please let us know in the comments below or contact us.