Over the last couple of years I have had several complete misses and, luckily, seen a couple of weaker displays of the Aurora Borealis from north east Scotland. I was still waiting for the true storm event, like those that happened back in 2003 and 2004 during the last solar maximum (which I saw from Durham). Therefore it was with a certain amount of scepticism that I viewed the amber alert from Aurora Watch UK waiting on my phone for me after we came out of the cinema on Thursday evening. After dinner though I had a quick look on Twitter and the place had gone mad with images streaming in from all over the British Isles: from Scotland, north-east England, Northern Ireland and in Wales. Will Gater even posted a shot from just off the M4! We quickly got ready and were heading west, hopeful of seeing something given all the positive sightings.
Usually out beyond the final houses of the village of Echt the sky noticeably darkens, the car head beams pushing outward against a deeper, truer sort of darkness than the orangey skies closer to Aberdeen. But on Thursday night something was different: the sky wasn't darker, it was brighter. As our eyes grew accustomed to it we could see the whole western and northwestern sky shimmering with an ethereal light. There was a yelp of delight as a red beam sprang up directly above us through the trees. It was hard to keep even one eye on the road as we wound slowly up the hill past Midmar kirk pulling into the parking spot at the crest with a rush of tyres on gravel. We almost fell out of the car in our excitement, laughing with delight at the incredible sight that greeted us.
The sky was incredible. To the west a broad red ray rose into the sky whilst to the north curtains of greens and yellows punctuated by diagonal streaks shimmered in an ever-changing pattern. In the north east more rays rose into a hazy red.
At one point a meteor streaked westward behind the bands of light. The whole experience was magical and we watched in awe as pulses of light raced silently overhead. In the north a more uniform green arc appeared and through it came ripples and waves as energy filled the sky above us.
By 11pm the display had faded in brightness, though the occassional ray still appeared in the northern sky. We reluctantly called it a night, driving back to the city with the hazy green arc in the north a reminder of the spectacle we had been lucky enough to witness.
All photos taken with a 17-40mm lens at 17mm, f/4 on a Canon 450D, ISO 800, 20 second exposures.