Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Aurora 12 April 2016

Continued from last blog

Last Tuesday night a G1- class geomagnetic storm was in progress as Earth entered a stream of fast moving solar wind. With the fairly clear skies we headed over to Bigton around 10pm.  Leaving Sandwick viewing was poor with thick cloud cover but cleared as we went west.

It was a surprise to find no one else about with a KP 4.5 +. The light show had already begun even though it had only just gone dark. The moon was about a 1/4 full and shinning brightly which lit up St Ninian's isle. The aurora began to grow brighter easily capture on the camera and also visible to the naked eye.

It grew in intensity with shafts of green then pink shooting into the sky. It also started to lengthen across the bay.

According to Daf Smith (Orkney Aurora Group) there has been 86 Aurora nights since the beginning of August 2015. So in the 9 months that's 9.1 per month approx. that's not to say you could see them all with cloud, rain ,gales and the Moon to contend with here in Shetland

On Wednesday 13 April Earth moved deeper into the stream, combined with a minor CME form a big sunspot AR2539 creating a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field. Unfortunately the weather turned out to be cloudy and windy, so nothing on this occasion. Same again the following night.

There is promise of further aurora activity tomorrow but with the moon nearly full it may prove a weak viewing evening. As far as I can tell it may be clear so worth a look

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Colourful Aurora

With problems with the computer its been a long time in coming. I never realised that Lightroom 6 was dependant on an internet connection. Lightroom 4 certainly is not so its been a surprise  to find this out. With the Nikon D610 needing to link up with LR6 I have not even been able to download these photos taken on the night of the 12 April 2016

The colours at KP5 turned out to be great, with greens and purples visible to the camera. The lighter areas of green you could see with the naked eye changing and rippling across the sky.

The colours are dependant on which gas is being excited by the electrons and how much energy is being exchanged. Oxygen omits the greenish yellow colour the most familiar colour of the aurora which is about 60 miles above the earth or all red aurora which is oxygen at around 200 miles high. The blues are from nitrogen.

Shetland is the nearest place in the UK to the arctic circle and therefore usually the best place to see the aurora, when its not cloudy. In Shetland the aurora is known as the `Merrie Dancers' , elsewhere the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis and are best seen September/ October then March / April when there is no moon

Now you don't find many people that say they don't want to see an Aurora, it seems to be on everyone's bucket list. We are so lucky in Shetland to be in a place where auroras can be seen, we have been fortunate that we have seen it over two dozen times and never get tired of it.

More to follow soon

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Sunset - Moon rise

Even though there was no Aurora on this particular night, the moon was very bright even through the clouds.

Any night under the stars and moon is still very special to me.

 International Space Station coming in from Left just after 10 pm (above) then on right below

Friday, 8 April 2016

Storm approaching

aurora prediction map

                    Apr 02          Apr 03     Apr 04
00-03UT        2                   4                  3
03-06UT        1                   5 (G1)         3
06-09UT        0                   4                  3
09-12UT        1                   3                  2
12-15UT        3                   3                  1
15-18UT       5 (G1)           2                  1
18-21UT       5 (G1)           2                  1
21-00UT       6 (G2)           3                  1 

Saturday 2 April 2016, above at 6.45 pm.  Looking out  it was still sunny but more cloud coming in .

                                                                                                     It's starting

I set off at 8.15 pm and caught the last part of the sunset at Bigton. The cloud was coming in from the south and east but I was hopeful that the aurora would appear before total cover. A few stars started to appear about 9.00 pm then a brief pillar of green light 10 mins later.

By 9.30 pm it was just about dark enough, that's the only draw back being in Shetland, its getting lighter every night. The aurora soon appeared, a growing green band that started to become brighter with dancing curtains. The band began to get wider and soon purple appeared, occasionally large wide shooting bands of  colour. Then a large amount of red / orange to the east of the green band.

At one point the coast guard helicopter came past heading north to check out a strange light from Easter Quarff, not the aurora.

All along the cloud kept creeping in from the south and east. At least no moon was visible and it was still but very cold. Around 10.15 it started to fade, but back over on the east side of Shetland it was total cloud cover.

It was one of the most colourful aurora's I have seen, and at KP 6 nearly one of the biggest. Glad I made it out as the Sunday night was very wet & misty , although just visible from Sumburgh.

This time Shetland was lucky with the cloud cover, Scotland had to endure total cloud on the night. I thought it may be one of the last Aurora until it starts going dark in September, another good month for Aurora hunting. Personally I cannot get enough of them, everyone is unique, and since moving to Shetland 2 years ago we have seen around 24 aurora's , with one in Sheffield back in February 2014.

On the 7 April another big aurora occurred at KP6, but this time due to cloud cover in Sandwick, it  didn't reveal its self until we were just about to go to bed, so we decided to look out through the window. This looked great, with a large green curtain rippling across the sky easily visible to the naked eye