The northern lights made a very welcome return last night, here seen from a few miles north of Auchterarder in Perthshire.
These photos were taken on the 18th March, a day after the strongest aurora during this entire solar cycle (registering Kp 8.8). Unfortunately, the skies in Central Scotland were bathed in low cloud and fog; all that was visible were the orange street lights reflected downwards.
Luckily, the earth’s atmosphere was still being battered by charged particles from the solar flare 24 hours later and I headed out on a Kp6 reading to find dark skies. It was a crystal clear evening with no wind – just the kind of weather you need for chasing the northern lights.
I eventually found a great spot away from light pollution and took some test photos. Nothing doing. However, I noticed a light off to my right shining up into the sky. I thought it might be a car off in the distance, or perhaps a bright light from a farm. But since it seemed to move I swung the camera around and sure enough, I’d been looking in the wrong direction !
Clearly visible to the naked eye, it was a ‘cloudy’ white colour – but green through the camera’s lens. These photos were taken at ISO400 on a 30 second exposure.
The columns I’d first seen soon faded giving way to a band just above the horizon which drifted slowly in different directions. The showing lasted perhaps for 90 minutes before it faded completely. This was my first sight of the aurora this winter and great to see again.