Epic G 5 Geostorm And Northern Lights, May 10, 2024

Peter Engelmann, May 18, 2024

On the evening of Friday, May 10,  2024, a dream for many people came true. Seeing the aurora borealis, the mysterious Northern Lights. An extraordinary solar event made it possible. Northern Lights appeared not only in  Northern Latitudes but in many places from San Francisco to Italy to Lviv.

The reason was the most intense solar storm in decades. A barrage of CMES (Coronal Mass Ejections) and Solar Flares launched clouds of charged particles and magnetic fields toward Earth. This led to the strongest solar storm within the last two decades and probably created one of the strongest displays of aurora borealis in the past 500 years according to NASA. https://science.nasa.gov/science-research/heliophysics/how-nasa-tracked-the-most-intense-solar-storm-in-decades/

NASA said this storm was so strong it was only paralleled by famous events in 1958 and 2003. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center warned about the upcoming storm because solar storms can seriously affect satellites, and power grids and endanger the health of astronauts. However, unlike the Carrington Event (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrington_Event), no serious outages or damages were reported.

Therefore this epic geo-storm became an event for enthusiastic nature lovers, scientists, photographers, and filmmakers. Since mobile phones are more light-sensitive they show the aurora borealis better than the naked eye. Furthermore, pictures with mobile phones and posted on social media showed us the broad variety of the ever-changing otherworldly Northern Lights. 

There also is scientific value to this. The extraordinary event produced for scientists highly valuable material they will now study for years. NASA is collecting the pictures taken by enthusiasts around the globe for research (https://aurorasaurus.org/).

The storm reached the highest level G5 and happened in the midst of the most activity during the 11-year cycle of the sun. Astronomers have also been following huge sunspots for months now.

How to know if Aurora Borealis is happening?

The extraordinary G5 event triggered the interest of many.  People who missed the Northern Lights would love to see them. One way to keep informed is to check the Space Weather Forecast and its Aurora 30-minute forecast ( https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/aurora-30-minute-forecast) It might be necessary to do some research to properly understand the page, but there are numerous YT videos about aurora borealis out there. Please don’t compare it too much with the weather forecast. Compared to meteorology space weather forecast is relatively new and there are limited measurement instruments out there. Scientists are still learning. Thus the first thing we need to learn is a lot of patience. I also recommend reading astronomer forums on social media regularly  But how do you know an aurora borealis is happening at your place? Is it worth driving or walking in the middle of the night? I can only tell what I did: When I learned about the possibility I checked a photo-webcam side every 10 minutes on my computer. I detected the aurora borealis first on the Zugspitze-Webcam in Bavaria. You might want to watch out for webcams looking towards the North. Because in the Northern Hemisphere, you usually see them in the Northern sky and vice versa in the Southern Hemisphere.

What are the conditions for watching the Northern Lights?

Of course, it has to be dark. Not completely but you need a dark sky. May 10 was great because the moon was there but no half- or full-moon. And you need a mostly clear sky. There are also good opportunities for even very creative and impressive pictures with some clouds or a thunderstorm. But the Northern Lights don’t shine through clouds. Fog or dust doesn’t work. A veiled sky with a strato nimbus cloudscape doesn’t work.

Where to watch the Northern Lights?

People make expensive trips to Norway to watch the Northern Skies. This is not the issue here. What can you do to see the Northern Skies if they appear in your place? First of all: find a dark place. These mobile phone pictures let the Northern Lights appear brighter as they are. Nearly everyone uses long exposure times. But it is a great experience to see them with the naked eye in the first place. It is possible to see the Northern Lights in big cities, I saw the first time a red Northern Light in the middle of Berlin in 2000. But as darker as better. A field, a mountain, or a coastline is great (it is not necessary to get to a higher elevation, but of course, conditions are often better because the air is cleaner with less dust).  If you go out to the countryside a flashlight is important. Astronomers often use a red filter in front of the light, because the eyes need to adapt to darkness to see better and red light is less disturbing. Take your time to adapt to the situation. The other thing really important is a free horizon, particularly a free Northern horizon. If you have a lake nearby – perfect! Go to the south end of the lake and look to the north.

How to photograph the Northern Lights?

There are countless tutorials out there and if you are fine with the quality of mobile phone pictures it’s quite easy. Of course, a tripod or a stable position is an important prerequisite.

I don’t have a manual or guidelines, but the most important question is knowing what you want. Do you want realistic pictures or a more artistic,  impressive, maybe even psychedelic impression? Do you want just to have the Northern Lights in the frame or an interesting foreground, a special composition? The possibilities are endless. 

If you head for better quality a bigger camera is good to have. In an ideal case use a fast lens. I used aperture 2,8 to 4. Of course ramp ISO up but it’s not necessary to max it out. The Northern Lights are often strong enough and you can avoid unnecessary noise. I heard exposure times of 20-20” seconds are recommended. I did shorter (at the cost of having some noise in my image) but it depends. Remember that if you do exposure times longer than 30 seconds the stars or the moon become stripes due to Earth’s rotation. I did shorter.

What’s important is to be aware of Focus: Auto Focus in some cameras doesn’t work properly in darkness! I set the focal length close to infinite, after some unsharp pictures.

One really important setting is to shoot in RAW if possible:

There is an interesting thing about Northern Lights: White Balance. Some people say around 4000 K but I found that the Aurora Borealis is a unique light source. If you shoot in RAW you can play with White Balance, Hue, and Saturation in post-production and get the best results. I encourage you to do this and unlock the full potential of pictures.

One last tip: As the Aurora Borealis often appears fast and is constantly changing preparation of the right settings is good and do as many pictures as you can. There is a lot of variety here. The slide show shows different facets of the May 10 storm:

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Der Japanische Garten in Augsburg (Bayern)

Der Japanische Garten in Augsburg ist zu jeder Jahreszeit ein Traum! Vor allem im Herbst präsentiert er ein unvergleichliches Feuerwerk gelber und roter Farbtöne. Ihr müsst nicht nach Japan reisen, um die Faszination eines klassischen japanischen Gartens und der vielen Motive, die er bietet, zu erleben.

In Augsburg, einer Großstadt im Südwesten Bayerns, befindet sich unweit des Stadtzentrums einer der beeindruckendsten und repräsentativsten Japanischen Gärten Europas. Der japanische Landschaftsarchitekt Yoshikuni Araki entwarf diesen „Garten der Freundschaft“. Er schuf eine Anlage, in der Bäume, Pflanzen, Sträucher und Wasserelemente sich zu einem einzigartigen Gartenkunstwerk zusammenfügen und den Besuchern ein außergewöhnliches Naturerlebnis bieten.

Wasser ist ein elementarer Bestandteil des Japanischen Gartens. Die Gartenarchitekten machten sich Augsburgs besondere Landschaft zunutze, in der Wasser ebenfalls eine zentrale Rolle spielt. Zwei Flüsse, Wertach und Lech, sowie eine große Anzahl von Kanälen in der Stadt und um sie herum unterstützten Augsburg einst bei seinem Aufstieg zu einem bedeutenden Industriezentrum. Das Wassermanagement-System der bayerisch-schwäbischen Metropole ist ein technisches Meisterwerk und gehört heute zum UNESCO WELTKULTURERBE.

Einer der vielen Augsburger Wasserläufe fließt direkt durch den Botanischen Garten, zu dem der Japanische Garten als integraler Bestandteil gehört. Das Wasser eines Baches aus dem angrenzenden Siebentischwald stürzt hier über Granitbrocken herab, um auf der nördlichen Seite des Japanischen Gartens unter einer Brücke zu verschwinden.

1985 wurde der Japanische Garten als Geschenk zum 2000-jährigen Jubiläum der Stadt geschaffen. Er steht auch für die freundschaftlichen Beziehungen zu den Partnerstädten Amagasaki und Nagahama; eine Freundschaft, die von Magokichi Yamaoka, dem Präsidenten des Maschinenbauunternehmens Yanmar, begründet wurde. Yamaoka war ein großer Verehrer Rudolf Diesels, dessen Familie aus Augsburg stammte, und stiftete ihm einen Zen-Garten im Wittelsbacher Park in Augsburg.

Der Japanische Garten im Botanischen Garten Augsburg präsentiert japanische Gartenkunst in Vollendung. Inspiriert wurde sein Architekt Araki durch die großen Gartenvorbilder in Kyoto. Japanische Gärten sind Kunstwerke, die eine Landschaft en miniature spiegeln und eine spirituelle Qualität besitzen. Der Garten hat zwei Eingänge, und man kann je nach Ausgangsort stundenlang neue Blickwinkel und Perspektiven entdecken. Unregelmäßig geschwungene Pfade, ein charakteristisches Element, führen zu den interessantesten Punkten. An markanten Standorten sind typisch japanische Steinlaternen (Ishidoro) platziert. Im Zentrum des Gartens befindet sich ein Teich (Euchi), der das Meer symbolisiert. Zwei Pavillons (Azumaya) stehen an diesem Teich; der größere von ihnen erinnert an einen Tempel und ist ein idealer Ort zum kontemplativen Verweilen. Von hier aus eröffnet sich ein freier Blick auf den schon erwähnten Wasserfall, dessen Granitfelsen übrigens aus dem Fichtelgebirge im Norden Bayerns hierher transportiert wurden.

Der Wasserfall und die Felsen erzeugen den Eindruck einer Gebirgslandschaft.

Ein magischer Ort: Felsen mit Flechten und Moos, ein dichtes Blätterdach und Wasser, das über den Granit herabstürzt.

Bäume und Stauden spielen eine wichtige Rolle im Japanischen Garten. Neben den charakteristischen Kirschbäumen gibt es weitere typisch japanische Pflanzen wie Azaleen und Rhododendren. Aufgrund der anderen Klimazone ist zwar keine ausschließlich japanische Bepflanzung möglich; man hat aber bei der Pflanzenauswahl Kompromisse gefunden, die den authentischen Eindruck eines Japangartens nicht beeinträchtigen.

Der Japanische Garten ist das ganze Jahr über ein ansprechender Ort. Zu den Höhepunkten im Jahreslauf gehören das Kirschblütenfest im Frühjahr und natürlich die faszinierenden Farben im Herbst. Grün, Gelb und ein intensives Rot sind dann dominierend. Für Fotografen bieten sich hier außergewöhnliche Motive und Möglichkeiten, auch wenn am Wochenende viele Besucher den Garten bevölkern. Ein guter Zeitpunkt zum Fotografieren ist sicherlich unmittelbar nach der Öffnung des Gartens um 9 Uhr morgens.

Weitere Informationen unter: www.augsburg.de/botanischergarten

Der Japanische Garten im Botanischen Garten ist leicht zugänglich. Einen (geringen) Eintrittspreis bezahlen muss man nur am Haupteingang des Botanischen Gartens und kann dann alle zugehörigen Gärten (z. B. auch Römergarten, Apothekergarten usw.) besuchen. Vor der Anlage befindet sich ein großer Parkplatz. Vom Hauptbahnhof Augsburg erreicht man den Botanischen Garten mit der Buslinie 32, die fast direkt vor dem Eingang hält. Der Botanische Garten grenzt an einer Seite an den Augsburger Siebentischwald, einen großen Landschaftspark und Wald, der zu weiteren lohnenden Ausflügen einlädt.

© Deutsche Übersetzung: Susanne Niemuth-Engelmann / Redaktionsbüro Niemuth, https://redaktionsbuero-niemuth.de/ / 23.01.24

Record Snow, Chaos, And Winter Wonderland

That was an unexpected start to the winter. Used to often warmer winters over the last years the tons of snow on the First Advent in the region North of the Alps and Austria had an American feeling of real winters in the North or simply the times before climate change, when cold winters with lots of snow were normal.

On December 1, 2023, a 5B Weather Situation and an air mass limit led to new record snowfall in Upper Bavaria. In only a few hours a thick layer of snow stopped trains and airplanes around Munich, causing over 90 traffic jams and many blackouts on Saturday, December 2.

A surprise in the morning: A thick layer of snow on the table.

There was so much snow that even on December 2, an emergency state in the capital of Bavaria lasted. One reason is that every weather event is different: In this case, the snow was wet and lasted on branches of trees. Some trees feel or parts of the trees broke apart. Therefore police and first responders had a lot of work.

It began in the afternoon hours on December 1 when the rain turned more and more into white blobs. The evening hours saw intense snowfall. It was snowing and snowing and in a few hours, the landscape was completely under a thick layer of white. That was too much for winter services to cope with.

In the morning hours of December 2, it was clear that it would take a lot of time and effort to clear streets, garages, and gardens from the mass of snow. Snowing didn’t stop before late afternoon. A cold night followed. On Sunday the weather calmed but it became even colder.

That first advent will be remembered as a true Winter Wonderland dream. Frost, the thick sheets of snow and ice created fantastic scenery in Bavaria and in the Alps.

Due to the nature of this weather event where snow often was attached to trees and other things it formed interesting sculptures.

With a little imagination, the fields were filled with strange creatures and an endless variety of forms.

Warmer temperatures and a cold night led to these interesting effects.

The trees were veiled in sheets of snow, ice, and frost. In one place there was an ice-curtain.

Here is a little red contrasting the white:

Antennas weren’t spared.

This fence had a lot of frost crystals.

The early morning hours are the best time to capture Winter Wonderland scenery. The cold air is very clear and a deep blue sky contrasts the white trees and fields.

It is always a good idea to bring some elements into the picture that add to the atmosphere as old barns or houses.

An attraction is small streams that are not yet frozen. If the water is warmer it creates often a thin veil of mist which looks great when illuminated by the sun.


The Japanese Garden is a dream in every time of the year. In autumn, the colors are an unparalleled firework of yellow and red. You don’t need to go to Japan to enjoy the fascination of a Japanese garden and the many motives it has to offer.

In Augsburg, Bavaria, not far from the city center is one of the most impressive and representative Japanese Gardens in Europe. Japanese landscape architect Yoshikuni Araki designed the Garden of Friendship. He created an outstanding experience with a unique setting where trees, plants, boulders, and water are in a special combination.

Water is a central element of the Japanese garden. The garden architects made use of Augsburg’s special landscape where water plays a pivotal role. There are two rivers, Lech and Wertach, and a huge number of channels in and around Augsburg, which previously helped the city to become an important industrial center. The channels, the water management system, and the industrial installations are UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE.

One of the many streams runs through the Botanical Garden and the embedded Japanese Garden in Augsburg. On one side, the water cascades over boulders and disappears under a bridge on the northern side of the Japanese garden.

The Japanese garden was built as a present for the 2000th anniversary of Augsburg in 1985. It presents also the friendship with partner cities Amagasaki and Nagahama. The friendship was initiated by Magokichi Yamaoka, president of Yanmar. There is also a Japanese memorial in the Wittelsbacher Park in Augsburg. Yamaoka intended to honor German Rudolf Diesel.

Augsburg’s Japanese Garden presents the Japanese Art Of Gardening at its best. These gardens are works of art. They present a landscape and have a spiritual quality. There are two entries to the garden and you can explore new angles that show different perspectives for hours. Uneven curved paths are a typical element and they lead you to the most interesting points. The center of the Japanese Garden is a lake (Euchi). It symbolizes the sea. Typical stone lanterns (Ishidoro) are placed at significant points. An open building (Pavillion) resembles a temple and is a great place to rest there. Tons of boulders were transported from the Fichtelgebirge, a mountain range in Northern Bavaria, to Augsburg. Inspiration for the garden came from Kyoto.

The waterfall and the boulders create the impression of a mountain landscape:

A magical place: Boulders with lichen and moss, a thick canopy, and water cascading over stones.

Trees and perennials play an important role in the Japanese garden. The typical cherry trees there and many other sorts of plants are typical for Japan. Due to the different climates, there are some compromises.

The Japanese Garden is an attractive place throughout the year. Highlights are festivities in spring and of course the interesting colors in autumn. Green, Yellow, and intense red are dominant colors. There are many opportunities for photographers here. On weekends there are many visitors in the garden. A good time is certainly shortly after the botanical garden opens.

More info is available at www.augsburg.de/botanischergarten

The Japanese garden inside the Botanischer Garten is easily accessible for a little entry fee. There is a huge parking space around and, you can get there by Bus 32 from Augsburg Hauptbahnhof. The Botanical Garden is surrounded on one side by the Siebentisch-Wald, which is a huge landscape park and forest.