Aurora Borealis - The Northern Lights


Once in every few years the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights will be visible from the lower latitudes in England. It is not a common phenomenon, but on occasion it does happen. When the Sun is most active in its solar cycle then some of the more violent eruptions from the Sun's surface called Coronal Mass Ejections - CME's can send masses of charged particles towards the Earth. This interacts with the Earth's magnetic field and cause the Aurora to appear at the polar regions. When there is a huge mass of particles headed our way, then even in the UK we can get a surprising view of this incredible event.

This was the case on the night of April 6th / April the 7th 2000. Many of us astro anoraks were out to watch the conjunction of the planets and the Moon earlier on that evening, quite a spectacle in itself, and some of us decided that as it wasn't a bad night, so we might do a little observing. Keen to try and work out how to use my new CCD camera I started to struggle to image M51. I don't know why but I really do seem to make hard work of it sometimes, but such is life. At about 0030 hrs in the morning I had just managed to get M51 in focus, and proceeded to try and get an image of some description, just as I started the exposure, I noticed a small red glow in the east - North East, my immediate thought was cloud being illuminated by a rogue street light, when suddenly I thought that's not a cloud. As soon as I said that the whole sky lit up as if someone had just turned up the dimmer switch. The whole sky shone with greens and reds with curtains of sky dancing in front of my very eyes. The colours shot right over head, and you could have knocked me down with a feather. It was awesome. I rushed inside to tell my wife, and grabbed a camera. Below are the images from the few shots that I took. It really did look like that.





For the technical Olympus OM1 with 16mm, 8mm, and 50mm lenses. Film Fuji 800, printed by Boot's the Chemist and scanned using a Epson GT4500 flat bed scanner. Exposures 20 - 40 secs at f2.8


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