Northern Lights monitoring for the Yukon Territory
a Project by Thomas Jacquin, member of the Yukon Astronomical Society
Yellowknife is one of the top northern lights tourism destinations in Canada. Each year, it draws thousands of tourists from overseas during the winter season. A large part of this success relies on advertising and local initiatives (Northern Lighthouse, AuroraMax). While the city of Whitehorse is located further south, it is still a prime location for aurora viewing. Winter tourism is one of the only economic sector still growing despite a receding economy. Promoting Whitehorse as a destination of choice for aurora viewing could potentially benefit to the Yukon economy.
The purpose of this project is to monitor the aurora activity above multiple communities across the Yukon Territory and provide a live view of the Yukon skies through a publicly accessible website. An array of weatherproof cameras pointing at the sky will be used to capture images which will be periodically uploaded using an internet connection.
Commercial all-sky cameras already exist but none of them meet the requirements for this project (long exposure, low temperatures, digital output, etc). By implementing our own camera system, we are creating a device for a fraction of the cost that meets all of our criteria. Our system includes a high sensibility camera plugged to a credit-card size computer transmitting data over a wireless connection. These electronic components are kept dry and clean by a weatherproof enclosure. This device can be fixed on the rooftop of a building and use the local wifi to submit the images.
This network of cameras would not only benefit tourism but also the community as it could be used as a tool by science teachers to illustrate concepts of physics, astronomy and electronics. Automobilists and pilots would also be able to see the current sky conditions in various places of the Yukon and plan their travel accordingly. The advantage of using multiple cameras is that it enables tridimensional views of the sky. With this stereoscopic vision, scientific work can be achieved such as the measurement of the altitude of the aurora display or calculating the speed and trajectory of meteors.