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How to See the Aurora Borealis in Montana

Photo courtesy of zhengxu/Flickr

A solar storm that occurred on October 5th, 2012 disrupted earth’s magnetic field enough to produce an aurora borealis (northern light) that was visible in Missoula on Sunday night.

MSU Electrical Engineering professor Joe Shaw has designed a device called an optical aurora detector that works by finding a particular spectrum of green light that is found in the aurora borealis, but rarely anywhere else. When an aurora is confirmed, the detector will send out text messages to anyone signed up to take advantage of the service.

Professor Joe Shaw explains the optical aurora detector:

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The aurora detector is still in development, but is working well. So far, the service only works in Montana with one detector at Salish-Kootnei college in Pablo and one detector in Bozeman. To sign up for the notification service, go to

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