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Aurora over Mid Wales ! 7th October 2015

October 7, 2015 Leave a comment

DSC049836.47pm looking west

Aurora alerts were coming in at 6.30pm on Twitter tonight for KP6 – 7 storm level activity with naked eye aurora potentially visible in Wales and even further south. I headed out for a good wide view to the north at 6.45pm and was immediately greeted with naked eye visible aurora across the whole northern sky from west to north east. I could perceive colour for the first time tonight where I had only seen faint white wisps of light before with green and magenta being clearly discerned. We had amazing bands of green at fairly high altitude for our latitude and then tall pillars of whiter light projected upwards into the darker star filled sky. The show seemed to peak early for our location and was largely over by 7.30pm, but continued to be amazingly intense further north in England and particularly in Scotland.

DSC049946.57pm looking north west

DSC049976.59pm looking north

DSC04998-27.06 pm looking north

DSC050007.07pm looking north

Here’s how that geomagnetic storm developed on the Planetary K index graph from NOAA in the US. It has to hit KP7 for aurora to be visible in Wales and you can see it hitting that between 7 – 9am on the 7th October.

planetary-k-index

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Categories: Aurora Tags: , , ,

Supermoon and Total Lunar Eclipse – September 28th 2015

September 28, 2015 Leave a comment

IMG_0336Supermoon at 12:19 am 28/9/15 Equinox ED80 Canon 350d @ prime focus

OK so I am going to try and update this post tonight as the combined supermoon and total lunar eclipse progress. The post may become more incoherent as tiredness takes over, but we will see how far we get ! If you don’t know what I am talking about and you live in the UK, Western Europe, West Africa, Greenland, Iceland or North America then take a look at the info. here Astronomy Now Magazine – Total Lunar Eclipse

Tonight we have a rare treat. The Moon is currently at perigree ie. it’s closest approach to Earth in its elliptical orbit. This means that the Moon will appear approximately 8% larger than normal and this event is popularly referred to as a ‘supermoon’. But there’s more ! The Moon is also aligned fully within the Earth’s shadow and will therefore darken dramatically to a deep brownish red colour at totality between 3.11am and 4.23am (BST). The red colour is caused by light from the Sun passing through Earth’s atmosphere around the edge of the globe. The blue light of our atmosphere is scattered more easily, but the red light of the various sunsets and sunrises around the edge makes it through and is projected onto the surface of the Moon.

Currently the sky is clear and the supermoon looks fantastic over the roof of our house. I have a Skywatcher Equinox ED 80 refractor mounted on an EQ6 equatorial mount which is computer driven so that it tracks the Moon. Photographs are being taken with my rather ancient Canon 350D DSLR mounted directly onto the telescope tube at prime focus and  using the telescope as the lens. Focusing is a bit hit and miss with this setup as the 350D does not have a Liveview that you can zoom so I have to get the focus set up as close as possible via the small viewfinder and then view each shot zoomed in, re-focus, take another shot and view zoomed in it etc. until the focus looks good.

The eclipse action starts at 1.12am (BST) when the Moon starts to enter the Earth’s shadow in the penumbral phase. We won’t notice anything until 2.07am (BST) though when the umbral phase begins and we see the Earth’s shadow creep across the top left limb of the Moon.

UPDATE 4.28 am….. Well the live thing didn’t work out as I had to constantly monitor the setup and change the camera exposure settings throughout to capture the full red colouring and change of light. Have to say that was bloody fantastic to watch !!! 4.15 am and I am still wide awake with excitement 🙂 Anyway here are a few photos through to maximum  totality at 3.47am and beyond…..

IMG_03442.26 (BST) Quarter Shadow

IMG_03482.54 (BST) Half Shadow

IMG_03613.16 (BST) Red colouring appears

IMG_03633.21 (BST)

IMG_03683.28 (BST)

IMG_0383Maximum Totality 3.59 (BST)

IMG_03864.01 (BST)

Aurora over Mid Wales – again ! 23rd June 2015

This was almost a re-run of the 17th March solar storm event which produced aurora over much of the UK right down to the south coast of England. At 10.40pm I checked the twitter feed for aurora alerts and was amazed by reports of aurora photographed in Devon UK. Heading over to Spaceweather I found that a KP8+ activity prediction had been posted which would mean that aurora could potentially be seen with the naked eye right down to the south of the UK. This activity had been triggered by a series of coronal mass ejection (or CME) events on the Sun which hurl charged particles in gas plasma in our direction. These charged particles interact with the Earth’s magnetic field at the poles to produce an electrical storm that we see as auroras. A severe G-4 class geomagnetic storm was taking place ! I headed out down the canal towpath again for a wide unobstructed view looking north and saw….cloud, lots of it !

The northern view was completely wiped out by thick cloud heading south towards me and the glow of light pollution from Oswestry. I decided to stay out for a couple of hours and see what happened.  At 23.51pm I noticed a break in the clouds with a bit of a glow to the north west. I thought this was possibly some noctilucent cloud activity at first, but the photographs showed otherwise – there was a really intensive green and purple aurora showing up ! Sadly I was just seeing a small part of a clearly fantastic show through holes in the cloud, but felt lucky to be seeing anything at all. Here are three photos taken between 23.51pm 22/6/15 and 00.24 23/6/15 with the Sony RX100, f 1.8, ISO 3200, 2 seconds, 28mm.

DSC03762

DSC03763

DSC03782-2

Categories: Aurora Tags: , , , ,

90% Solar Eclipse over Mid Wales 20th March 2015

March 20, 2015 2 comments

hadisk1alt23Above: Ha view with single sunspot region 2303 visible and some curving wispy filaments

The Sun is throwing an embarrassment of riches at me this week with a first ever view of the aurora on Tuesday night and now a perfect blue-sky view of the 90% solar eclipse from the front garden ! I was well prepared this time with all batteries charged up and a ‘Plan B’ mobile solution which could be powered from the car if the notorious local river fog blotted out the view. The weather conditions turned out to be perfect though with early cloud passing over from the north west leaving a clear blue sky completely through the eclipse event from first to last contact. The whole event lasted between 8.40am and 10.40am with maximum coverage at our latitude of just over 90% at 9.30am.

The neighbours gathered around close to the maximum and watched via the video footage on the laptop screen while I captured footage via the DMK41 mono video camera on the Coronado PST Ha and CaK scopes mounted on the EQ6 drive. It was a very pleasant event and everyone had a good view. There was a terrific quality of light at maximum with lots of long shadows cast across the landscape and a deep navy blue sky.

The images are all single frames selected from the 1000 frame footage of the videos as my stacking software (Registax 6) has issues with aligning points when both the sun and moon are moving relative to each other in the video footage. Even so I am very pleased with the results which make up a fine record of the event.

caksun1alt3Above: CaK View with Sunspot region 2303 visible

hadisk4alt

hadisk5maxaltAbove: 9:30am Maximum coverage for our latitude at just over 90%

hadisk6minaltAbove: Near last contact at 10:38am – just a small bite out of the sun at bottom left

haproms1alt2Above: Some fine prominences on the limb

Don’t miss the UK partial eclipse on 20th March 2015 – last one until 2026 !

Partial Solar Eclipse in UK - August 2008

If you happen to live in Svalbard or the Faroe Islands you will be treated to a 2 minute and 46 seconds total solar eclipse early on the morning of the 20th March 2015, the last total solar eclipse in Europe until 12th August 2026 ! For the rest of us in the UK we will have to be content with somewhere between an 80% and 95% partial eclipse, which is still quite exciting and visually spectacular.

In the UK the partial eclipse will start 8.25 am (based on London location) and finish by 10.45 am (based on Inverness location) with maximum eclipse coverage at 9.31 am (based on Birmingham location). The time only varies very slightly by a few minutes across the UK and you can get more detailed information here http://www.solareclipse2015.org.uk/chasing-the-shadow/about-the-eclipse/

The last time I saw a partial eclipse in the UK was on 1st August 2008 and the weather was awful. The cloud did part very briefly though and I managed to get the image above at maximum coverage. Fingers crossed the weather on 20th March will be better and I will certainly be trying to get some better images this time with the Ha and CaK solar telescopes.

As ever, please protect you eyes with the appropriate safety precautions in place before looking directly at the Sun.

Categories: Solar Tags: , , , , , ,