Auroras, as one of the most fascinating plays in nature, provide an ideal starting point for educational missions introducing space weather science and its applications to general public. The Space Weather Applications Pilot Project Auroras Now! will develop an Internet service for near-real time monitoring of the auroral activity in the Fennoscandian area. The service will include two different elements: a service designed specifically for hotels in Finnish Lapland and a set of web-pages for general public. In addition to general information about auroras and space weather the service will include an auroral alarm system (based on magnetic field data) and a monitor of near-real time auroral images.
The service will utilize the data of the ground-based instrument network MIRACLE which is maintained as a wide international collaboration coordinated by the Geophysical Research Divison of the Finnish Meteorological Institute (GEO/FMI) . The all-sky camera at Sodankylä (owned by the Sodankylä Geophysical Observatory of the University of Oulu, OY/SGO) provides the auroral images for Auroras Now! The field-of-view of the camera covers the whole Finnish Lapland. Magnetic field recordings of OY/SGO and Nurmijärvi Geophysical Observatory (FMI/NGO) will be used in the auroral alarm system.
The service for hotels will consist of a sequence of easily understandable web-pages which can be displayed e.g. in an internal TV-system. The auroral alarm display will tell the hotel customers the auroral occurrence probability at any time during the day. The probability characterization will be given according to a specific activity index derived from the magnetic field time derivatives observed at OY/SGO. The FMI Regional Services of Northern Finland will provide the pages with cloudiness predictions for the coming night. During dark hours the actual situation can be checked from a display showing OY/SGO camera image on a map. The map displays and cloudiness predictions will be customized for every hotel separately. The pilot service has two Lapland hotels ( Luostotunturi and Hullu Poro ) as test customers.
The web-pages for general public will be based on the same basic products as hotel pages, but in a wider background context. Previous days' geomagnetic activity conditions will be described with auroral animations and time series of the OY/SGO and FMI/NGO magnetic activity indices. Statistics describing the reliability of the auroral alarm system will be presented and links with approriate guidance to other space weather data resources will be given. As a supplementary product auroral alarms will also be distributed through the mobile phone network with text messages to interested members of the largest amateur astronomers' association in Finland ( Ursa ). The contents of the general web-pages will be designed with the help of a limited test audience including the Ursa community, customers of one hotel in middle Finland (Hankasalmen Revotulihotelli), and the science center Arktikum in Rovaniemi.