Aurora hunting in the English Lake District!

01st April 2015
I spent last night / early this morning hunting the elusive aurora in the English Lake District. This is a shot taken during a previous aurora storm close to where I live. Before you go hunting yourself, there's a few things you need to know as it's actually quite a tricky business!

Here's a little time lapse video I made - first I've done of an aurora - some room for improvement!

Is an Aurora likely?
Well, there are forecasts available on websites and phone apps but we're generally talking a few hours notice, rather than days. Even with a strong KP index (instensity) there's no guarantee of a strong display. Other science 'things' come into play of which I have no real understanding!

Are you far North enough to see the display?
The further north the better, but with a very strong display, the aurora is visible across the length of the UK.

Can you get somewhere dark enough to see the display?The darker the better - city lights will block out the light from the aurora so you need to get as far away from them as possible. Rural Scotland, Northern England and Northern Ireland are your best bet.

What's the weather doing?
Even if all of the above points are addressed, you'll still be at the mercy of the British weather. Cloud is not unheard of in the UK and if it happens to be cloudy when the wonder display is going on overhead, I'm afraid you'll miss the party! So, if you can, get yourself to somewhere forecast to have the clearest sky.

Hopefully, if you're lucky, there'll be an occasion when all the above comes together and you get the chance to spot the aurora for yourself in the UK. I have to admit to getting quite emotional when I first saw a proper display - it's definately one of those life affirming experiences!

Last night was a bit of cat and mouse trying to find cloud free sky. I started near Whinlatter, a couple of miles outside of Keswick. Cloudy! I drove further west to Lorton and Crummock water where the forecast was for the cloud to clear.

It WAS clearer and I managed to get my first few shots.

I then drove over Honister and along the road beneatch Cat bells. I imaginged a shot with Derwentwater beneath me and Blencathra in the background but I couldn't see any sign of the aurora by this time. Move on.

I drove back to where I started near Whinlatter and got a shot looking over Bassenthwaite and Skiddaw.

To the naked eye, the aurora was quite faint, but the sensitivity of the camera picks out more of the colour. It was then onto Castlerigg stone circle. Someone had beaten me to it (Hi Tom and Beth?) and we were shortly followed by at least another 6 photographers all looking to get the same shots.

It's funny meeting people for the first time in near total darkness and trying to have a conversation whilst photographing the aurora!

It was time to leave the crowds behind and head off to a spot by Thirlmere that I'd pinpointed on the map. Sadly, the show was nearing it's end so it was time to head off home and get to bed - 3.30am yawn!

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