Last night the aurora came back for a brief visit. The light show was slow to get going but for a brief five minutes the sky lit up and sent purple and green pillars reaching high up towards the stars.
Charged particles from a coronal hole were forecast to reach the Earth yesterday and sure enough, once it got dark (around 9pm now that the clocks have moved to British Summer Time) my camera picked up a weak auroral arc. I’d headed out to my usual spot, up a hill and less than 15 minutes from my house. Aurorawatch UK had issued a red alert, the first since October 2016, so I was hopeful for a good light show.
You can read more about what triggered the aurora and where it could be seen on the Aurorawatch UK blog. I’m pleased to say one of my pictures also features on the blog.
So last night involved quite a bit of standing around waiting. It was a gorgeously clear, starry night and blowing a cold breeze. But while aurora chasing does involve a fair amount of waiting it’s certainly not boring … the sky’s forever changing with the aurora coming and going, clouds threaten in the distance and of course, you’re intermittently checking Twitter for other real-time reports.
I was beginning to think that nothing was going to happen but then – all too briefly – the sky lit up. It was as if a switch had been pulled. Boom! The change in intensity was clearly visible to the naked eye – picked up much more clearly by the camera of course – and pillars of light stretched upwards to the stars.
But it didn’t develop. As quickly as it came the aurora retreated to the arc low on the northern horizon.
She’s a welcome sight but very fickle in these parts.