Stunning Aurora 23/24 April

I was treated to an awesome light show on the night of the 23rd/early hours of 24th April. There was talk of a few weak CMEs that were due and solar wind stream but nobody expected what would eventually turn out to be KP6+ event, with aurora visible in Mayo and Galway in Ireland, Scotland, Northern England and many US states. I had noticed middle latitudes on red alert on the aurora charts earlier in the day and if it held aurora would certainly be visible come darkness.

The north coast was too far away for me that night so I was racking my brains for an interesting foreground and settled on Beaghmore Stone circles. To my knowledge the aurora has never been photographed from this location over the famous Beaghmore Stones so i thought it would be perfect. I arrived at the car park at 23:05hrs just as the sky was getting properly dark and most importantly, it was clear. A lonely dark walk from the car park to the stone circles site, thank god for the head torch. It really is one of the best dark sky sites in my area and with no moon and clear skies the stage was set for the light show to begin.




I could see an enhancement to the northern region of sky and the first image confirmed this with the green aurora arc. Things progressed very quickly from this and it seems i arrived just in time. This was the start of a crazy aurora display, the best i have witnessed to date.


The arc suddenly brightened and purple pillars of light shot up from it and moved from left to right. It was amazing to watch. I probably missed a good part of the show with taking images and running about trying to light the rocks from different angles. It was just trial and error. Most of the shots i tried to backlight them, this meant a quick blast on the front with the torch and then running into the frame and behind the rocks quick enough so as i wouldn't show up on the images, I'd say maybe 50% worked out.


Starting to fade again now in the above image, thought I'd caught another meteor when I saw this on the viewfinder but it must be an iridium flare because it shows up fainter on the before and after shots.


There was a quiet period when only the green arc was visible so I'd decided to include myself in a few shots for the memory.
It was around this time that I freaked out slightly. In a place like this miles from anywhere pitch black and on your own, the mind can play tricks on you. I could have swore I saw something move about twenty feet away, halfway through the night. Started sweeping the area like mad with the torch, senses heightened then I remember where I am, among ancient stone circles and burial cairns, oh crap.. After notions of getting the hell out of here I reassured myself there was nothing stalking me and continued taking images and it faded from my mind.



The time was 01:20 and now the aurora had really arrived, it went into outburst so fast it caught me out as i was setting up the camera and tripod for a different angle. The green band was so vivid and then there was green beams, purple beams and the left side of the display had some crazy pink, red and purple colours going on. I couldn't believe what i was seeing here. The motion of the beams surging skywards and then moving across the sky was stunning and is something that everyone should get to see, one of natures most awe-inspiring shows.
In all the excitement I forgot to check the lens and it had fogged up at the worst possible time so theres a slight blurred look to these two images. This most intense outburst lasted about ten minutes, but for the next hour or more there was purple beams shooting skywards all the time.



I cant remember the exact point in the night in which it happened, but I observed the most amazing visual motion within an aurora display. If you can imagine a section of the green aurora band about the size of your outstretched fist suddenly brightening and accelerating upwards at incredible speed. These pulses of light were shooting skywards at least twice a second and the whole thing lasted maybe ten seconds or so, I can't be sure. All I know is that I want to see that again!-Wow


I tried every different angle on the rocks I could think of and even briefly wondered about doing a startrail or time-lapse, but never did.








A single toothed monster briefly appeared on the horizon.


The last image of the night in the carpark with the purple pillars over the Beaghmore sign. This was 03:11 and time to go home, I was cold, tired and hungry but it was so worth it to be treated to such a magical event and catch it on camera at this great location. On the drive home I could still make out those beams to the north and the aurora would continue and put on a good show for people in the US and other countries. Can't wait for the next one!