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The North Dakota Dual Aurora Camera (NoDDAC) is a student-led project operated in conjunction with the University of North Dakota (UND), the LiveAuroraNetwork, and Aurorasaurus citizen science. Aurora cameras are valuable tools for aurora chasers, and scientists, providing ground-truth visual data to gauge auroral activity, yet at midlatitudes, these facilities are few in number. Deploying aurora cameras in these areas provides a valuable resource for aurora-chasing communities, but also demonstrates scientific merit as the analysis of rare phenomena, such as STEVEs, benefit from multiple geographic observations. What makes this project unique is the student initiative being based at a university observatory, the focus on dual cameras with COTS equipment, and, the emphasis on open data, a responsive community resource, and citizen science. NoDDAC employs the Sony a7s ii camera and Sony 24mm f/1.4 GM lens as a north-facing aurora video camera. A less expensive all-sky Canon T6 camera paired with a Sigma 4.5mm f/2.8 circular fisheye lens continuously captures 60-second images every two minutes. The cameras are stationed at the Martens Observatory operated by the department of physics and astrophysics at UND (48.1oN). Specialized housings from the LiveAuroraNetwork weatherproof both cameras and proprietary IPTimelapse software allows images to be uploaded to a web server and analyzed. The LiveAuroraNetwork hosts the image streams from both cameras on their website and mobile app. When aurora is detected by the IPTimelapse software, the NoDDAC twitter account will post a short clip of the display to alert aurora chasers. These cameras will be shown on the Aurorasaurus auroral oval map along with other citizen scientist observations. Image data are archived and made open source, abiding by the FAIR data use principles. The north-facing camera records video, which will allow for small auroral features to be studied using Zooniverse-style image analysis citizen science efforts. In the first half of 2021, the cameras successfully detected aurora on over 20 occasions, including overhead aurora and STEVE, and rare noctilucent clouds. This presentation will reflect on the first year of NoDDAC, outline a timeline for NoDDAC’s future, and open the floor for collaborations with other citizen science efforts.

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aurora, citizen science, aurora camera, northern lights


Astrophysics and Astronomy


Presented at the Fall 2021 Virtual UNDergraduate Showcase, Grand Forks, ND, December 9, 2021.

The North Dakota Dual Aurora Camera (NoDDAC), a student-led citizen science project: one-year retrospective, future developments, and scientific potential