Monday, September 19, 2016

Lawnmower prompts Northern Lights alert

I discovered this in the Sept. 10, 1016 issue of New Scientist.

Aug. 25, 2016

A red alert issued via the Aurora Watch mailing list was withdrawn after sensor readings were found to be "spurious".

An investigation revealed a lawnmower had got too close to one sensor, triggering a "massive spike" in data.

Aurora Watch said it was looking into ways to avoid the incident being repeated.

The bogus alert was issued during the afternoon of 23 August, after a magnetometer at Lancaster University recorded a surge in geomagnetic activity.

Aurora Watch is run by scientists at the university and takes readings from lots of magnetometers to work out when the aurora borealis will be visible across Britain.

The project draws on magnetometers in Lancaster, Aberdeen, the Faroe Islands and further field.

The alert was withdrawn four hours after being released as it emerged only one sensor had recorded the spike in activity.

A later update posted to the Aurora Watch webpage said an investigation had revealed that a groundskeeper using a "sit-on mower" to trim grass had been driving too close to the sensor, prompting the spike.


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