Part 30: Catching the Northern Lights

Northern lights

Can you monitor Northern Lights with Zabbix? Of course you can! By day, I am a monitoring tech lead in a global cyber security company. By night, I monitor my home with Zabbix & Grafana and do some weird experiments with them. Welcome to my blog about this project.

The Christmas is coming, and -- at least if you believe Hollywood movies -- part of that magic would be staring at the sky and marvel the Northern Lights. Well, in practise you probably won't see them, as even if the Northern Lights would be up there, a thick layer of clouds will probably prevent you seeing them. Or then you live in an area with so many street lights that you don't see the sky properly.

We have tried to watch them several times with my wife, but our attempts all over the years and all the seasons have failed so far. But, for the sake of Christmas spirit, let's imagine you could actually see the lights.

Getting the data

There are probably actual APIs for getting the data -- at first I went to NASA's open data site but then quickly gave up; there's so much data that I would not have an actual idea how to start parsing this beautiful sky flames phenomenon.

Admitting my lameness, I next came up with plan B. The Finnish institute of meteorology has this page for space weather & Northern Lights predictions. Sorry, the page is all in Finnish, so likely it looks like an alien language for you. Anyway there's this snippet which shows the probability of Northern Lights tonight ("Tänä yönä"), tomorrow ("Huomenna" and the day after tomorrow ("Ylihuomenna").

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Is that some kind of advanced form of encryption? No, that's just Finnish language for you.

But how to parse that? Well, of course, with Zabbix, that is easy with the HTTP Agent item type. It allows you to grab web site contents and then perform all the advanced processing for the data you would expect from Zabbix item pre-processing.

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Then, using dependent items -- one for tonight, one for tomorrow, one of the day after tomorrow -- and item preprocessing we can extract the interesting bits.

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And see, it works!

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I also created a (still boring looking) dashboard, which shows me the current values.

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The problem I now have is that I don't know all the values the page could contain -- when I created this blog post, the chances of seeing Northern Lights were small ("pieni") or smallish ("pienehkö"). Well, I keep checking my dashboard from now on! For now, I could create triggers which would alert me if the values would be something else than "pieni" or "pienehkö", but did not have time for that yet.

I have been working at Forcepoint since 2014 and I bring many Nordic values for the company, even though I'm not lucky with the Northern Lights.

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