Wednesday 13 July 2011

A simple magnetometer for detecting auroral activity

I've been playing with the idea of creating a simple magnetometer which can be used for detecting times when the aurora might be visible. AuroraWatch UK already provides a service for this, with email and Twitter alerts. The AuroraWatch web pages also show how to build a simple pop-bottle magnetometer, and a compass detector, but I wanted something which could easily output digital data. Now I've found a suitable sensor, I've started building a prototype using the open-source Arduino micro-controller platform.The recent Howduino workshop at Lancaster was very helpful in finding (and fixing) a few bugs in the DHCP support.

Arduino with protoyping shield 

A short test at home didn't reveal much, except that cars cause far too much disturbance to the magnetic field. The next test will be at a more remote location but first I need to extend the sensor lead and add some buffering and protection circuitry. It's unlikely I'll have a network connection for time keeping so using NTP won't be possible so I'll probably add a real-time clock.


  1. Hi Steve. Do you have instructions to set this up? I live in an area with decent auroral activity, so this could be real fun to try out. Cheers.

    1. The entire system has been developed considerably since this first post, for more recent information see
      There's a manual which will give you an idea of the system,
      Drop me an email for me information before you start construction since there are various build options to choose.


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