Labor Day Weekend Aurora Borealis via VIIRS Day Night Band

September 6th, 2022 |

The recent 3-day weekend was a 3-night extravaganza for Aurora enthusiasts with an active Aurora Borealis lighting up the sky for 3 nights in a row.  The VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) Day Night Band Sensor flying on the Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 polar-orbiting satellites captured stunning snapshots of the celestial phenomena during each North America overpass.  

NOAA-20 VIIRS DNB image acquired in the early hours (0954 UTC) of September 3rd, 2022
Suomi-NPP VIIRS DNB image acquired in the early hours (0904 UTC) of September 3rd, 2022

Auroras are visible signatures of disturbances in Earth’s magnetosphere that occur when the solar wind interacts with Earth’s magnetic field during geomagnetic storms and substorms. They typically flow between 100 to 500 km above Earth’s surface. Polar-orbiting satellites fly at an altitude of 824 km (512 miles) and are perfectly situated to observe and monitor the Aurora Borealis in the Northern Hemisphere or Aurora Australis in the Southern Hemisphere.

Suomi-NPP VIIRS DNB image acquired in the early hours (1027 UTC) of September 4th, 2022
Suomi-NPP VIIRS DNB image acquired in the early hours (0845 UTC) of September 4th, 2022
NOAA-20 VIIRS DNB image acquired in the early hours (0704 UTC) of September 4th, 2022
NOAA-20 VIIRS DNB image acquired in the early hours (0935 UTC) of September 4th, 2022
NOAA-20 VIIRS DNB image acquired in the early hours (0753 UTC) of September 4th, 2022
NOAA-20 VIIRS DNB image acquired in the early hours (0614 UTC) of September 4th, 2022

Uniquely sensitive to low levels of visible light at night, VIIRS Day Night Band is the only satellite sensor able to detect and display the Aurora. The DNB is sensitive to radiation in wavelengths between 0.5 – 0.9 µm, which covers much of the visible and some near-infrared wavelengths. The images appear monochromatic because they are a combination of all energy within the entire bandwidth, meaning we can’t separate out the “green” or “red” parts of the data to see vibrant colors that citizen science photographers capture from below. Thousands of Northern Lights pictures were shared on social media over the weekend. Here are just a few …

Suomi-NPP VIIRS DNB image acquired in the early hours (0826 UTC) of September 5th, 2022
NOAA-20 VIIRS DNB image acquired in the early hours (0733 UTC) of September 5th, 2022

Day Night Band images from North America satellite overpasses are available via the VIIRS Imagery Viewer , a 7-day archive — refreshed daily — for all 22 VIIRS channels, usually within 60 minutes of being acquired onboard the spacecraft. Current and archived VIIRS images over the continental USA are also available on the VIIRS TODAY website. As future JPSS VIIRS satellites join the fleet, that data will also be available on these sites.

Of note: the JPSS-2 (NOAA-21) satellite is scheduled for launch on November 1st, 2022.

VIIRS Imagery Viewer is online at CIMSS

September 15th, 2021 |
VIIRS imagery over the eastern United States and Canada from 13 September 2021

The VIIRS Imagery Viewer hosts 7 days’ worth of imagery over North America — refreshed daily — for all 22 VIIRS channels. Five of these channels are imaging-resolution bands (I-Bands) with a resolution of 375 m, and sixteen are moderate-resolution bands (M-Bands) with a resolution of 750 m. The viewer also hosts Day Night Band (DNB) images that provide unique nighttime perspectives. CIMSS acquires the data from the Suomi-NPP and NOAA-20 polar-orbiting satellites via Direct Broadcast antennas.  As new images become available from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), they are processed via CSPP software and presented in a thumbnail directory, usually within 60 minutes of acquisition onboard the spacecraft. The thumbnails link to high resolution full overpass images. In addition to the individual bands, the VIIRS Imagery Viewer features multiple Level-2 products. The most popular are True and False Color images.  

CIMSS Direct Broadcast is one of the few places to access images in all 22 bands collected by VIIRS. Previously (and still) available via ftp (at https://ftp.ssec.wisc.edu/pub/eosdb/), the VIIRS Imagery Viewer makes it easier for students and citizen scientists to access the data, especially students participating in the JPSS Virtual Science Fair.  

Visit the VIIRS Imagery Viewer at https://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/viirs/imagery-viewer/