Aurora Forecast 3D

Release v5.9

Quick look guide

Thanks for installing the Aurora Forecast 3D - Rocketeer. Hopefully, you will enjoy it and make use of it as a tool to track down the aurora. It renders the Earth in 3D with rotation and scaling at your fingertips. You can make your own Station anywhere on the planet. The Sun illuminates the globe as it updates in near real-time (1s). The short term forecasts are up to +6 hours, while long term forecast are up to 3 days ahead in time. They are updated when the app is active and connected to internet.

The Skyview module shows a fish-eye view of the sky including the auroral ovals, satellites, planets and stars as seen from any ground point location.

Below is a short description on how to use the app.


The above screen shot is marked with text labels. The circular green/red transparent belt is the aurora oval.[1,2] The red colored part of the oval represent the dayside Cusp aurora. Two colored polygons mark the positions of your Station (red) and the Ground-track point (orange). The optical horizon for 110 km of altitude is visualized as a transparent disk centered at the track point.

City lights are included based on data from the NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.[3] In addition, an aurora compass is shown in the top left corner and 9 x speed buttons are grouped to the right. The auroral activity is presented using a speedometer layout.

The Aurora Compass

The Aurora Compass shows where the auroral oval is located as you look up at the sky from the center Ground-track point.
This point is marked with an orange circular polygon on the Globe. The latitude and longitude are shown at the top of the screen. You can rotate the Globe to move to any desired position.

The oval all-sky cover is shown in percentage in the center of the compass. The orange star marks the position of the Sun in the compass. The Moon symbol is explaned below according to phase and age. These will only appear if they are within the field of view as seen from the Ground-track point.

The Moon

The above symbols represent the Moon as observed from the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere these moon symbols are swapped horizontally (mirrored).

Kp index indicator

The speedometer is used to visualize the auroral activity based on the Kp index (0 - 9).
The index is a measure on how disturbed the planetary geomagnetic field is. It is directly related to auroral activity. The short term predicted Kp values (0, +3 or +6 hours) are estimated by the Space Weather Prediction Centre (NOAA-SWPC) using satellites that monitor the Sun.

Hint: You can set your own Kp index by tapping the color scale on the wheel.


Aurora sky view probability as seen from the Ground-track point.
+0 hour Nowcast.
+3 hour Forecast.
+6 hours Forecast.
Toggle Day/Night ON/OFF.
Return to Station point.
RESET Zoom and Rotation.
Zoom IN.
Zoom OUT.
Repeat news ticker - text line
Track Satellite position
Toggle Asterisms/Laser pointer ON/OFF

The Sun

The Planets

The positions[4] and apparent size of the inner planets are scaled in 3D according to the size of the Earth, but the distance is for artistic reasons not correct. It is in reality much further away. The apparent distance of the Sun is scaled down 500 times. The outer planets are scaled down and located at infinity close to the stars. Textures of the Earth, the Sun and the Moon are downloaded from the internet.[5,6]

The Stars

The stars and constellations in the 3D viewport are from the Tycho catalog sky map by NASA[7] version 2.0. The map is projected using a cylindrical-equidistant transform that is wrapped to a outer celestrial sphere.
The red cross in the star map marks the position of Zero Right Ascension (RA) and Declination (DEC).
It is known as the First Point of Aries and is the location of the vernal equinox

The Satellites

You may view satellites as they fly-by both in the 3D viewport and in the Skyview module. Enable the "Satellites" checkbox in the "Setup" menu to use this option (Default is OFF). The positions of the satellites are calculated by code[8] based on Two-Line Element (TLE) sets provided by the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSi). Each set groups the satellites according to mission objectives like communication, navigation or pure scientific purpose etc. The TLE sets are updated automatically every 24 hours. You may force an updated TLE by using the "Refresh" button in the "Edit" menu.

Default satellite is the International Space Station (ISS). Hit the "Track" button in the "Setup" menu to locate the current position of it.

The Skyview module

The Skyview module is activated by tapping the Aurora Compass in the 3D viewport. The Bright Star Catalogue edition 5 (BSC5)[9] is used to plot stars. A yellow circle identifies the selected object to track in azimuth (AZ) and elevation (EL). The constellation signs are adopted from the International Astronomical Union (IAU).[10]


The compass rose to the left shows the azimuth angle orientation of the Skyview on your device.
You may use it to navigate. First, identify a known object in the sky. Secondly, mark it in the Skyview viewport and level the phone horizontally. The air bubble is only enabled for mobile devices with 3-axis accelerometers installed. The compass should as a result show true north.

The accuracy mainly depends on correct time on your device and pointing direction. Your current location should also be updated as frequent as possible using known wavepoints.

Laser pointer mode

A powerful laser is fired up from the center of the Earth to any Star or constellation.
Laser targets are selected by tapping on objects of interest in the 3D viewport or in the Skyview module. A total of 765 bright Stars and 89 constellation signs (asterisms) may be located and identified by the laser.

Rocket trajectories

Sounding rocket trajectories are projected onto the globe and in the Skyview module. The rocket campaigns main target was to probe and understand processes in the magnetospheric cusp associated with dayside aurora. Enable the "Rockets" checkbox in the "Setup" menu to use this option (Default is OFF). The tracjectories are plotted in orange line color. All launched are either from Andøya Space Centre in Norway (ASC) or from the Svalbard Rocket Range (SvalRak) at Ny-Ålesund in Svalbard, Norway.

Rocket abbreviations
Cusp Alfven and Plasma Electrodynamics Rocket
Cusp Region EXperiment
Ionospheric Cusp Irregularities
Rocket Experiment for Neutral Upwelling
Sounding of the Cusp Ion Fountain Energization Region
Svalbard Eiscat Rocket Study of Ion Outflows
JAXA's Sounding rocket for Ion Outflow
Twin Rockets to Investigate Cusp Electrodynamics
VISualizing Ion Outflow via Neutral atom Sensing

The ForeCaST (FCST) module

The FCST (ForeCaST) module summarizes the 3-day forecast from NOAA-SWPC. Three hours wide color coded bars are plotted as a function of time. The storm limits at Kp = 5 and Kp = 9 are plotted as two red horizontal lines. The highlighted bars are the current short term forecasts, accompanied by a five line text summary. You may click on each bar to view the effect in both the 3D viewport and in the Skyview module.

Note that any aurora occurrence of the 3-day long term forecast depends highly on the solar wind IMF configuration, and might not kick in.

Make your own station list

You can make your own station or modify the pre-defined station list that came with the app. Note that it is not possible to delete "My Location". It is hooked up the Ground-track point (orange) event handler and the location sensor of your device. Go to the "Setup" menu and open the Editor by clicking on the "Edit" button.

First, enter only letters for the station name. All numbers are float using the dot "." as decimal separator. Latitude must be entered as decimal degrees and is positive to the North and negative to the South. Correspondingly, longitude is positive to the East and negative to the West. The altitude is in units of meters (m).

Secondly, test the input values by using the "Check" button. If this operation ends with a "Station is valid!" message, then proceed to the third and final step.

The station is added to the end of the list if you hit the "Add" button. It will be deleted from the list if you use the "Delete" button. If you simply want to modify or update the station, then use the "Apply" button.

Hint: Zoom IN the 3D viewport and position the Ground-track point where you want it to be. Click or tab on the point to update "My Location". You may also use the location sensor to update you current position. Then change the name of it in the "Edit" menu and simply add it as a new station.

Note: You can force a save settings by the "Save" button in the "Setup" menu. These settings are also saved when the app focus is lost on termination.

Alert messages

If a geomagnetic storm occurs (Kp>5), then you will receive an alert message. It pops up as a vertical aligned text line to the left in the 3D viewport. The alerts are grouped according to the definition provided by NOAA-SWPC.

Geomagnetic storms
The frequency is number of events per solar cycle (11 years).

Acronyms and abbreviations
Active sunspot Region
Apparent Solar Time
Coronal Hole
Co-rotating Interaction Region
Coronal Mass Ejection
Disappearing Solar Filament
Heliospheric Current Sheet
High Speed Stream
Interplanetary Magnetic Field
Lagrangian point 1
Local Hour Angle
Sudden Impulse
Stream Interaction Region
Solar Proton Event
Solar Sector Boundary Crossing
Universal Time

In addition to the above forecasts, three day alerts from NOAA-SWPC are shown as sliding text - news ticker. Click bottom left button to repeat message. Enable the "Local Notifications" checkbox in the "Setup" menu to use this option (Default is ON).

Help - information

This help file is only visible after first entering the "Setup" menu and appears as a "?" marked tab sheet.

Travel tip

First, locate a city or an airport above the Arctic Circle. Secondly, remember that it has to be dark. The Sun needs to be ~10 degrees below the horizon. Otherwise, the aurora will be drowned in solar light. In the northern hemisphere, this means late autumn to early spring with best viewing conditions during the late afternoon and into the night. At Svalbard we see it all day during mid-winter. Thirdly, I would recommend a location where there is stable cold in-land climate during the winter. For example, Fairbanks in Alaska or Alta in Norway are excellent locations. Another option is to take a boat trip and hunt for clear skies.

How to hunt for the aurora

For most people on Earth, you will have time to eat dinner. Then check your local weather forecast for clear skies. Start the app and locate the auroral oval. If you have a clear view of the oval above your head, seen in the Aurora Compass, then you have up to 75% chance to see the aurora. Happy hunting!

Change time

The app is setup to Nowcast and Forecast in Universal Time (UT). The Apparent Solar Time (AST) is calculated using the Local Hour Angle (LHA) of the Sun. As a consequence, AST depends on you location and may be crudely measured with a sundial.

If you want to change date to study the ovals at any other time epoch, then enter the "Edit" menu. Enable the "Date" checkbox and use the selection menu. Do the same for the "Time" menu to set the clock. You can now also change the Kp index by tapping the color wheel in the Kp-indicator.

Network and settings

Note that the app will still work if your device is not connected to the internet. But the Kp index, the alerts and satellite TLEs are then not updated. The help file does not require a network connection. Default input values and locations can be restored. Close the app and delete the cash / data used by the app. This is done in your phone's settings. You can now restart with default settings.

It also works without location and local notification permissions, if the user denies the app access.

Data flow

The app only communicates with our data server at The Kjell Henriksen Observatory (KHO). The server downloads twice a day the Kp - forecast and the 3-day space weather alerts from the NOAA-SWPC. The satellite orbital elements are updated daily from CSSi. The communication is strictly from the KHO server to your mobile phone. No other data or personal information is transmitted back to the server.

Warning sign

A warning sign appears when the forecasts are not valid or when there is no internet connection to the server.


[1] Sigernes F., M. Dyrland, P. Brekke, S. Chernouss, D.A. Lorentzen, K. Oksavik, and C.S. Deehr, Two methods to forecast auroral displays, Journal of Space Weather and Space Climate (SWSC), Vol. 1, No. 1, A03, DOI:10.1051/swsc/2011003, 2011.

[2] Starkov G. V., Mathematical model of the auroral boundaries, Geomagnetism and Aeronomy, 34 (3), 331-336, 1994.

[3] The Visible Earth catalog,, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, April-October, 2012.

[4] P. Schlyter, How to compute planetary positions,, Stockholm, Sweden, 1979.

[5] T. Patterson, Natural Earth III - Texture Maps,, October 1, 2016.

[6] Nexus - Planet Textures,, January 4, 2013.

[7] Bridgman, T. and Wright, E., The Tycho Catalog Sky map- Version 2.0, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio,, January 26, 2009.

[8] Vallado, David A., Paul Crawford, Richard Hujsak, and T.S. Kelso, Revisiting Spacetrack Report #3, AIAA/AAS-2006-6753,, 2006.

[9] Hoffleit, D. and Warren, Jr., W.H., The Bright Star Catalog, 5th Revised Edition (Preliminary Version), Astronomical Data Center, NSSDC/ADC, 1991.

[10] Christensen L.L., M. Andre, B. Rino, R.Y. Shida, J. Enciso, G.M. Carillo, C. Martins, and M.R. D'Antonio, The Constellations, The International Astronomical Union (IAU),, 2019.

We wish to thank the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) - Space Weather Prediction Centre (SWPC) for allowing us to download the predicted value of the estimated Kp index and the 3-day space weather condition forecast to our data server at The Kjell Henriksen Observatory (KHO). Correspondinly, the positions of the satellites are calculated based on Two-Line Element (TLE) sets provided by the Center for Space Standards and Innovation (CSSi).

Also thanks to be Beta testers Pål Gunnar Ellingsen, Morten Rønne, Knut Flå, Odd Jostein Sylte, Petter Sele and my wife Gerd Irene Sigernes. Especially, thanks to Android crash testers Sharon Tayt, Timothy Hall, Katharine Beutner and Johannes Tredoux.

The application is made by F. Sigernes (email:, Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway (2016). It is licensed as fredware.

This software is provided as it is with undiscovered bugs and errors. F. Sigernes and associates are not responsible for any negative consequences that could occur by the use if this application.