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The aa index is a simple global geomagnetic activity index, with units of 1 nT (nanotesla), which is produced from the K indices from two approximately antipodal observatories. At present these are Hartland observatory in the UK and Canberra observatory in Australia. The main advantage in using aa indices for research purposes is that the time series spans further back (to 1868) than any of the other planetary indices time series.Also, up to date values are produced and made available weekly, giving nearer to real time availability than any other planetary index. In between the weekly updates, BGS calculates estimated aa indices, providing real time "nowcasts" which are updated on an hourly basis. These estimates are clearly marked with the letters "Est". Although calculated by the same method, the aa indices available on this service are not the definitive values. These are published by the International Service for Geomagnetic Indices, CRPE/CNET - CNRS, 4 Avenue de Neptune, F-94107 Saint Maur, Cedex, France.
The K-index scale summarises geomagnetic activity at an observatory by assigning a code, an integer in the range 0 to 9 (0 being the least active field and 9 the most active field) to each 3-hour Universal Time (UT) interval. K-Indices are available for Lerwick, Eskdalemuir, Greenwich, Abinger and Hartland Magnetic Observatories. From 1954-90 the values are hand scaled, from 1991 to the present day they are automatically scaled. The data not only aids scientific research into rates of change of the magnetic field and increases the accuracy of the BGS Global Geomagnetic Model, but also provides data to exploration geophysicists engaged in current and future oil exploration.