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Aurora visible from Mid Wales ! – 20th December 2015

December 21, 2015 Leave a comment

Around 8pm on 20/12/15 aurora alerts started to appear in my Twitter timeline suggesting Level 8 visibility from a G2 class magnetic storm. This would produce naked eye visible aurora over Mid Wales latitudes so I headed out between 8.25 and 9.25pm, but saw nothing on the northern horizon due to cloud passing by in the north and plenty of light pollution above Oswestry. There was also the reflected light of a half Moon in the south to contend with !

I headed back indoors and watched the Auroral Oval Forecast available on the front page of Spaceweather.com which gives a good indication of both the intensity and likely visibility of aurora over Europe. At 10.50pm the visibility line reached Northern Ireland and North Wales and there were reports of the activity causing ham radio blackouts due to storm interference in the upper atmosphere. People were photographing green aurora as far south as Cambridgeshire. This looked good so I headed out again from 10.50pm through to 00.35am. At 11.22pm the activity really intensified and I could see a faint naked eye magenta glow above the Oswestry light pollution. This was not the Level 8 visibility predicted, but more like Level 6-7.  There were no naked eye visible aurora overhead like we had on 7th October 2015 but the camera, with its better light sensitivity, could pick up more colour and detail including lots of magenta and green and some tall light pillars. Activity had largely ceased by 00.10am at our latitude, but northern Scotland, the Scandinavian countries and particularly Iceland had one of the most intense shows of the year.

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A faint green and magenta glow with light pillars at 11.22pm

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The most intense display at 11.24pm

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The display widens across the horizon at 11.46pm

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The last part of the display as the aurora recedes to the north 00.00am

Here’s how that solar storm shaped up on the NOAA Space Weather forecast monitors…

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Above: The auroral oval visibility chart for 00.40am 21/12/15 just after the main activity had faded over Mid Wales

NOAA K Index 20-12-15

Above: The NOAA K index for 20th-21st December 2015. The higher the K number the more chance there is of seeing naked eye aurora at your latitude. For Mid Wales we generally need at least KP7 and as you can see it topped out at KP6 leaving the aurora well to the north of Wales, but visible with digital photography on the northern horizon. At KP8 you will definitely see naked eye aurora across the UK.

Images taken 23.22 pm to 00.10am on 20th December 2015 using a Sony RX100 compact. 28mm, ISO 3200, 1.5 t0 8 sec exposures f1.8

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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.

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