Just when I’d been away walking for three days in the Lake District and was looking forward to catching up on my sleep I received various alerts mid-afternoon indicating a moderate solar storm was in progress. Oh well, you can’t be too choosy when these things happen … By just after 9pm it was fully dark and sure enough a test shot looking north from my house confirmed a familiar greenish glow.
Apparently this short, sharp solar storm was not anticipated and had been expected to give Earth just a glancing blow. However, a forecast Kp6 suggested it could be seen across the whole of Scotland and down into northern England.
As I’ve read elsewhere, this year has seen several good sightings of the northern lights in Scotland – as many as might be expected at the peak of the 11-year solar cycle, even though it peaked in 2012/13. In fact, this was the fourth time this year I’ve been lucky enough to catch the aurora from home.
There are several good spots to see the northern lights locally and so even on a ‘school night’ it’s not a huge inconvenience to head out. It was a mild, still and cloudless night and by 10pm I was snapping away.
I was soon joined by a few other photographers, some of whom it seemed had already visited other locations earlier on.
As it turned out, the ‘window’ was only an hour long; by 11pm the clouds rolled in from the south and it was all over. However, it was a moderately good showing with the slowly-shifting green glow clearly visible to the naked eye together with pillars of reddish/purple bands appearing occasionally. The lights strengthened and weakened, peaking perhaps twice over the hour.
The slideshow below includes fourteen 30-second exposures taken over seven minutes. You wouldn’t exactly describe them as ‘dancing’ lights (as you might see in a really strong aurora at higher latitudes) but the slideshow nevertheless shows the lights slowly moving around.
Finally, here’s the aurora with the statue of Colonel Sir David Stirling, the WW11 soldier and founder of the Special Air Service (SAS), in the foreground. By this time the light pollution from Perth was being reflected by the incoming clouds.