14 for 2014 #2 – See the Northern Lights in Scotland
As regular readers will know, I am a bit obsessed by the northern lights. I ticked them off my bucket list last year when I took a trip up to Tromso in Norway specifically to see them (read more about my trip to Tromso and the Lyngen Alps). But I also decided that seeing the northern lights in Scotland would be one of my ’14 for 2014′ challenges – and last Thursday they arrived big style !
The auroral display was one of the best seen in the UK for twenty years and provided a truly spectacular sight. It was seen all across northern Europe and in the UK as far south as Norfolk, Essex and Jersey.
Amazing pictures have been commonplace in the media and on Twitter for a couple of days but I thought I’d share some of my own. Once the aurora alert reached kp5 and I began to see reports of sightings elsewhere in Scotland I knew it was time to head out to my usual spot up in the Ochil hills near Sherrifmuir.
I think I must have arrived at 9pm just before the most intense lights were visible. While there was persistent cloud low on the horizon reflecting the orange streetlights from Braco, Blackford and Perth a strong green band was clearly visible with the naked eye right up until the clouds started to roll in at midnight.
Around 9.30pm I spotted a red shaft of light over to the northeast and within five minutes this was accompanied by the most intense red display over in the northwest – clearly visible with the naked eye. I don’t think I’d ever seen photos of red auroral lights in the UK before; this was just spine-tingling ! While I’d been snapping away with 20 second exposures before that, the red lights were moving more quickly and I had to drop this to 10 seconds (you can make out the texture with of the charged particles). To put this into perspective, in northern Norway last year even with a corona exploding overhead and rapidly moving curtains of light, my photos were also taken with a 10 second exposure. The red band persisted for perhaps 15 minutes before gradually fading, although faint red shafts are still visible on the photos taken after that.
I think I’ll now let the photos do the talking …. enjoy !
The next night (which wasn’t a school night) my son and I decided to take a punt and drive over to St Andrews on the Fife coast. He’d missed the Thursday night showing unfortunately and was keen to head out on one of our aurora / star-spotting adventures that we have from time to time.
Sadly, the possibility of seeing the lights faded during the evening and we saw nothing. It was a great night for stars on the coast, though, and we played games in the van. We woke up to a gloriously sunny seaside morning on the beach. Even without the lights, the camper van life is pretty good.