features of aurora detection and notification service

Automated Photography for Real-time Detection

The service automatically takes photographs, including those of the aurora and stars, from multiple locations in Alaska. These photographs are tagged in real-time using image recognition in order to detect the visibility of an active aurora. This level of sophistication - combing automated photography with image recognitions - guarantees that you will never miss an aurora borealis experience again!

how aurora detection and notifications works diagram
image recognition of northern lights with AWS Rekognition

Aurora Detection with Image Recognition

The service leverages AWS image recognition service - Rekognition to visibly detect the aurora in photographs. While processing each photograph in real-time, Rekognition identifies keywords visible in each along with the level of confidence for accuracy.

If a photograph is tagged with "aurora" and the level of confidence is above 90%, then the service will trigger notifications. If you have opted in, the notifications are sent to you via a text message or even a voice phone call.

detects aurora borealis and sends alerts with phone call and text message

View activity through Text Message

The service will send a text message providing the details of the current aurora - including the level of confidence along with the current weather forecast. In addition to the details, the text message also includes the photograph that triggered the detection. The photograph provides you with visual confirmation of what you should see outside.

Wake up with a Phone Call

The service also has the capability to call you (if you choose to also recieve a call) and provide the details of the notification. These data points provide encouragement for you to wake up and get outside to see the active aurora.

stream nothern lights from webcams

Streaming Webcam

As the service processes each photograph, they are streamed to this website on the webcam page, making them accessible in real-time from anywhere. If you are unable to get outside, you can still watch the aurora as it happens right here. You can also watch prior aurora shows in the timelapse videos that are automatically generated.

Sony A6300 mirrorless camera for astrophotography

High Resolution Photography

The service uses Sony A6300 mirrorless cameras. Building on the success of the Sony A6000, this premium cousin provides the same 24-megapixel resolution, but with a new sensor that offers improved photo quality in low light. Since it is built for amateurs with pro-level ambitions, the camera provides great quality while limiting the risk of the camera being damaged by extreme weather.

Sigma low light lens to capture aurora borealis with long exposure f/1.4

Low Light and Long Exposure

The Sony Alpha cameras are equipped with Sigma f/1.4 lenses to ensure vivid clarity on the darkest of nights. The durable lens sucks in a lot of light, making it very easy to shoot stars at lower ISO levels with faster shutter speeds, which means a cleaner result and also less risk of movement in the stars.

Expanding Coverage

Currently the service is only deployed in Valdez, Alaska, while the team perfects the thresholds for notifications and ensures the equipment operates smoothly in Alaska's extreme weather conditions.

The team plans to deploy the service in McCarthy soon, and is looking for locations in Anchorage.

View locations

locations of aurora cams in alaska including Valdez, Anchorage and McCarthy