We were treated to another really good Northern Lights show again last night, visible across Scotland and Northern Ireland. It’s not often I actually see them from my upstairs window given the glare from street lights but sure enough, there was a definite green glow. Funnily enough, my first test shot with my camera showed up nothing and I didn’t believe it. A quick fiddle (to the correct settings) confirmed what I knew I could see with my own eyes !
I headed up to my usual dark sky spot in the hills of Southern Perthshire, passing others parked with tripods at the ready. As I drove along the single track road my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I could make out the aurora, but much brighter than before. There was a clear arc from horizon to horizon and with many shafts of light extending up into the sky. This was a “wow” moment. The sky was lit up: not a low, dull glow but bright lights extending perhaps 45 degrees above the horizon.
I was only a minute from my usual parking spot but in the time it took me to get my tripod set up this dramatic show had peaked. The photos below were all taken over the subsequent thirty minutes or so (between 12.00 – 12.30am) during which time the lights slowly began to fade.
What was great about last night’s show was the range of colours, provided by charged particles interacting with atmospheric gases at different altitudes. I’ve seen greens and reds before but never so many pinks. I particularly like the single shaft of light in the last photo below which turns from pink to green below the level of the wispy cloud.
Interestingly, while I could easily see the lights with my naked eyes I couldn’t distinguish the colours; it was only with a 30 second exposure that the camera could separate the pinks from the greens. (But puzzlingly, when we had a very strong aurora last February, the strong reds were easily seen with the naked eye. Mmm … is this to do with the strength of the aurora, perhaps ?)
It was a clear, clear night – down to 1.5 degrees by the time I headed home at 1.30am – and I’ve rarely seen so many stars. Let’s hope there are one or two more sightings of the northern lights before the season’s over and the long, light nights return.