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Thread: Northern Lights

  1. #1

    Northern Lights

    There's not much good about 2012 in my opinion but it seems to be pretty good for seeing the Northern Lights.
    This was taken in Orkney recently, not by me though.

    I would love to see the Northern Lights but have never managed it, always seem to be in the wrong place / wrong time.

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Orcadian1.jpg  
    Last edited by private fraser; 09-12-2012 at 11:36.

  2. #2
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    stunning Fraser.

    i know what you mean about 2012, been a sh*t one for me in more ways than many.

    i have seen them on a few occasions when in the forces and working up in Norway and northern Canada,

    i was so impressed then it left me with the need to have some as my screen savers now.

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  3. #3
    wo that's awesome

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by private fraser View Post

    I would love to see the Northern Lights but have never managed it, always seem to be in the wrong place / wrong time.

    For some reason people in the UK get hung up on seeing the Northern Lights and, for some other reason, they think you have to travel to Canada or Alaska in order to see them. There are bits of Scotland further north than the south of Alaska so there is no reason to leave the UK. However, and this is the key for many people, you need relatively dark skies to see them well though they can be seen from the town. Of course being at the North Pole is always going to be optimal, but being in the UK is no barrier to seeing Northern Lights.

    All you need to do is look at the right time from a position with dark skies and, of course, with no cloud cover. The getting a clear sky bit is the tricky thing in the UK. None the less even into the far south of the UK you can have dramatic displays of Northern Lights and certainly in West Lothian you will have no problems getting to see a decent display over the next few years.

    The lights are caused by charged particles from the sun and the sun goes in a cycle where sometimes it is sending us a lot of these charged particles and sometimes hardly none at all. Over the last few years this cycle has been in a dip and so there have been very limited opportunities to see the Northern Lights from anywhere, never mind West Lothian. However, the sun is slowly coming out of this dip and this explains why people here in the UK have been seeing a few displays over the last while - I saw a display myself when returning from some salmon fishing in September. We are not at the peak of the sun cycle yet and so things will continue to improve over the next few years, for some reason we usually get the best displays of the Northern Lights as the sun cycle declines rather than as it increases and we are still in the increasing phase at the minute.

    If you are determined to see the Northern Lights then it is really quite simple, though it does require patience and a tiny bit of effort. First of all keep an eye on the web site: -- News and information about meteor showers, solar flares, auroras, and near-Earth asteroids

    As you can see from this page they show an image of the sun with the sunspots marked and it is usually these sunspots which hurl the charged particles in our direction. So, you want lots of sunspots and lots of solar flares and the spaceweather site will report these and will highlight when a CME (the charged particles) is due to hit the earth. This usually gives you 2 - 4 days warning of a display of Northern Lights.

    If you know the particles are on their way then you don't need to stand out in a field getting a sore neck staring at the sky. On the front page of this site there is a graph which indicates if the charged particles are hitting our atmosphere. The magnotometer making these measurements is based in the UK so it is "local" information:

    Welcome to AuroraWatch UK

    When you see this graph start to take big leaps or vary a great deal from the "normal" line drawn on it then it is time to get outside and keep your eye on the sky.

    Of course what you find is that most events happen during daylight or when the sky is covered with clouds and so you are only able to take advantage of a proportion of events but there is nothing you can do about that. So, now all you need is patience. Be warned that often the lights only last for a short period of time and you will need to get outside and let your eyes adjust plus having dark skies will help so it is worth taking yourself off to somewhere with limited light pollution.

    If you think you can sit in the house, pull back the curtain, and you will be presented with an amazing display complete with sound effects and an orchestra then it isn't like that and, to be honest, a lot of people that I take to see the Northern Lights admit to being disappointed as it can be a pretty subtle effect and there are no sound effects or Disney characters running about.

    A friend announced that he was planning on spending many thousands of pounds to go on one of these Northern Lights "trips" to Alaska as it was one of the things he'd decided he must see before he died. I talked him out of it on the basis that he could easily see it in the UK and when I phoned him one night to say that the sky was alive with lights and he should jump in the car and drive to somewhere with dark skies he announced that he was watching TV and couldn't be bothered. My experience is that this sums up why many people in the UK have never seen something that is, given the right conditions, easily seen from their front garden

    In support of all this here is a photo taken from my back garden. It wasn't a very good or impressive display and it only lasted 20 minutes but it does demonstrate that you can see Northern Lights from your garden in the UK with little or no effort:

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  5. #5
    Stunning pics.
    I was lucky enough to see the Aurora in Lapland a few years back, I was making the 100m dash to the sauna through the snow in just a towel and happened to look up. Had to turn around and go put some more suitable clothes on, it was -35 that night.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Munty_Hunter View Post
    Stunning pics.
    I was lucky enough to see the Aurora in Lapland a few years back, I was making the 100m dash to the sauna through the snow in just a towel and happened to look up. Had to turn around and go put some more suitable clothes on, it was -35 that night.
    I'll bet the girls though that was a fantastic display and the lights.

  7. #7
    If you can put on a good display at -35 you're a lucky guy, everything is working against you!!

  8. #8
    Besides it's also quite dangerous, you ever read about Polar bear mating, everything tends to go brittle at those kind of temperature.

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