Red alert cancelled

Red alert cancelled.

Red alert: aurora likely.
Issued 2016-08-23 13:25 UTC (14:25 BST) by AuroraWatch UK using SAMNET LAN2 data from Lancaster, UK.

AuroraWatch UK issued a red alert at 14:25 (BST) today based on magnetic field data from the LAN2 (Lancaster) magnetometer. Unfortunately, the readings were spurious and not related to geomagnetic activity. It, instead, appears that some local inteference set off a massive spike in the data (no, it wasn’t the intern!). Whilst we’re not sure yet what this interference was, the magnetometer is located in a site shared with other experiments, and something metallic may have been placed on our instrument or some machine may have been in operation nearby. Investigations will take place and steps to prevent a reoccurence will be taken.

Update: we believe the interference was caused by University staff mowing the grass on a sit-on mower. We’ll work with the facilities team to try and avoid an incident such as this occuring in the future!

Red alert cancelled. Data spike at LAN2 creates false alert.

Red alert cancelled. Data spike at LAN2 creates false alert.

As you may know, the CRK2 (Crooktree, Aberdeen) magnetometer is normally used to issue alerts, however, this had itself been “playing up” and so our system had swapped to LAN2 as a back-up. Unfortunately, it seems our back-up needed a back-up.

After the alert was triggered, we manually editted our Facebook post to override the alert. Unfortunately, it was not possible to stop our alert emails being sent. We also manually switched our alert system to LAN1 and then back to CRK2. We’ve also issued a message through our new API system. Although our web pages use this feature as yet none of the apps implement it.

Apologies for any inconvenience. But, hey, at least we know our new system works for next time 😉

46 thoughts on “Red alert cancelled

  1. Hi, thanks for the service. It would however have been appreciated if you could have emailed everyone to say “Cancel the Red alert”. If I hadn’t checked your pages I would have been sitting on the brecon beacons tonight with a load of mates feeling rather silly 😎
    As it is I had to spend 30 minutes emailing and ringing people about the false alarm
    Best wishes. Tony

    • Hi Tony, again my apologies for the inconvenience caused. We’re feeling rather silly at this point too! I have contacted our mailing list administrator – hopefully he can send an email around cancelling the alert. Unfortunately, it’s not something I can do myself and he is actually on annual leave (but is aware of the false alarm). Hopefully we’ll get something sent round soon.

  2. Sounds like a problem Ferranti had years ago. Their readings went funny twice a day. Turned out it was the vibration of the high tide! Just thought it was interesting.

    • We were thinking maybe sheep would be a good solution 😉

      In all seriousness, the issue came about because we were using the LAN2 (Lancaster) magnetometer, which is our backup site. Normally we use CRK2 (Aberdeen) and so don’t have this issue (it’s not a shared site and so the grass can just grow). We will liase with the University to see what can be done to prevent this in the future.

  3. So sorry the alert was false. We are on holiday in a remote cottage in Sutherland, Scotland. No lights of any sort, so perfect for viewing.
    But alas it isn’t going to happen.
    You made us very excited for a little while, until the update.
    Thanks for the great service though over the years.

  4. Gosh! Don’t ever make mistakes again that’s all I can say!
    Thank you for you FREE service!

  5. I think it’s wonderful not only can the system detect major magnetic storms It’s able to detect garden machinery!

  6. Thanks for the information and for providing the service. I have enjoyed the episode.

  7. Thankyou for the cancellation, I have to say I am both amused and relieved.
    I spent an hour studying the map and decided to go to Trevose Head ( Cornwall) tonight but as time has gone on I’ve been getting the jitters about being alone in the wilds in the middle of the night yet couldn’t bear not to go.! At least now I can get a buddy in place for a real alert.
    Happy Tuesday

  8. Its good to know the system works :). I was really surprised to see the alert, but good on ya for getting the cancellation out so quickly. Not sure why you’ve switched sites, but maybe if one site triggers use another to cross check before issuing the alert (or would that defeat the point of automating it all?). Keep up the good work

  9. Aww! It was going to be the end of a perfect day! Never mind, our youngest daughter has just gone into labour so an exciting end to the day yet!

  10. Hi, no worries, I think your groundsmen may have purchased that lawnmower second hand from the SETI people. Thanks again for operating this service, best wishes. Tony

  11. If it was set off by a lawnmower shoudn’t that be a Green Alert?

  12. haha. I’m disappointed and a bit relieved too. I was making plans to get a late train out of London and camp in the darkest place in the South East and it was all going to be a mad rush to get out there and get back for tomorrow. Alas. An adventure deferred.

  13. I have not laughed so much for a long time. My groveling apologies to friends will cost me a lot of drinks?

  14. Hi. For anyone who looked at the data, it was obvious that it was a glitch in the system as the red was so far off the scale. If it had really been that high I think it would probably have been visible in daylight!
    I’d assumed that you’d had an instrument failure.
    I think it’s the first big false alert I’ve seen in the several years I’ve been receiving the e-mails, which I consider to be an exceptional record.
    Whenever I get an alert I always check the data. Looking at trends is always useful in estimating whether an event is likely to last.
    Also using a second source of data such as
    Thanks for the good work. It really is appreciated 🙂

  15. I nearly wet my pants with excitement when I saw the red spike earlier but realised pretty quickly that something was seriously amiss and I wouldn’t be able to see the lights from my back garden in Essex! Still, it was a nice dream while it lasted.

  16. Great service and even reading these posts is a real joy. What a great attitude from everyone; if only the rest of the world was like this!

  17. Was getting really disappointed as we have near total cloud cover here in Dumfriesshire, so I’m actually quite pleased it was a false alarm! Thanks for the great service – and the amusement value!

  18. Too late for me. I’ve already purchased non-refundable airline tickets to Svalbard. What kind of a service do you call this?

    (Just kidding. It was a very amusing story. Keep up the good work.)

  19. Well, thank you anyway for the excitement the email caused in our household ‘down south’. Looking forward to a real one ! ,

  20. Thanks for the update! I did think 390+ was a bit high though was hopeful and thinking of zooming up to Kielder 🙂 (any excuse!) Incidentally – anyone know what has been the highest alert

  21. Aw, about to start a sequence of night flights back to the UK from Rio after working on the games. Was hoping to catch a glimpse from 35, 000′.

  22. Our hedge trimmer reckons there’s going to be a full moon with a bit of cloud 😉

  23. Always interesting to get an alert,…
    I appreciate the honesty in the cancellation. The service is much appreciated.

  24. Pingback: Lawnmower causes a false “Red Alert” for UK-based aurora warning station @aurorawatchuk | G7IZU LIVE RRD

  25. Thank you for the service. I was at Lancaster in ’76.

    In those days it was bulldozers attacking the VC’s office that caused the alarms…

    I am getting old and we’re getting well past the solar maxima… so since a sighting is on my bucket list I’ve bought a tiny campervan (a shed/kennel on wheels) and thereby me and my two dogs are heading for Abisko in N Sweden in mid October….

    …I’ll still be in contact with your service…amazing stuff this Internet thing….not even a dream in the eye in 76!

    Once again many thanks….I’ll enjoy sharing the lawn mower gig forever.

    Kind regards.

    • Also in Lancaster in ’76; (68-76 actually). Very fond memories. Lawn mower story will become a classic.

  26. I looked at the other locations to corroborate the spike. Not seeing anything elsewhere, I was expecting it was a false reading.

    I was hoping though that there would be further red bars of activity (though not enough for a wipeout of all electronics on the earth).

  27. Brilliant and the honesty in this post is refreshing, definitely time to invest in some back up sheep and ditch the lawnmowers 😉 Thanks to everyone for the free service you provide and for helping me to see my first ever lights last year. Keep up the good work you lovely boffins 🙂

  28. Thanks for the service. Made us laugh anyway. Hope NORAD don’t have lawnmower issues

  29. I didn’t see this until this morning, glad I only spent a couple of hours last night looking 😛

  30. Anyone who complains about the false alert needs their head examined. You receive these emails FOR FREE, and you should use another site to confirm the readings.

    [Moderator edit: removed last sentence. Let’s keep it polite please.]

  31. Slightly ironical, but there was significant activity last night with Amer levels reached -but no Amber alert was sent out – or at least I didn’t get one. 🙁

    • Typical isn’t it?! With regards to the amber alerts, we found the issue causing no alerts to be sent out and that has been fixed. Not a great day for us yesterday! But we keep on improving 🙂

  32. Is there some way to use polling of the sensors such that you have a majority voting system that issues an alert if two of three register high? It is used regularly on satellite systems for Earth sensors etc to stop spurious roll/pitch/yaw corrections if one IRES goes high!

    • This is something we have been working towards for some time and have trialled in the past. Our new algorithm uses both H and E components, unfortunately many of the AuroraWatchNet magnetometers only sense the H component of the magnetic field so their data cannot be used in a voting scheme.

  33. I have to say I love the fact it was a lawnmower. I did get quite excited for 15 seconds until I popped open your fantastic app and could not seen any activity.

    Thank you for the amazing free service and the occasional comedy moment.

  34. Pingback: Mower prompts Northern Lights alert | LatestInfoNews

  35. Thank you for the wonderful (free!) service plus a story that has made my week. The posts made me laugh till I nearly cried. Hats off for your refreshing honesty. Great stuff. Keep up the good work.

  36. Thank you for the explanation. Thought something was odd when my mobile app alerted for no reason even though the setting alert is for red alert, What was an hour before (13:00-14:00) 39.0 nT then alerted me at 14:35 to 656.0 nT. Would have taken more than an X9 CME to produce that sort of value. But I had guessed it was an anomaly, either that or the magnetometer was drunk. 😉

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