Planetary Conjunction and Aurora Borealis
A solar storm, emanating from the same coronal hole that caused brilliant aurorae over Scotland on the 7th-8th October, was due to arrive sometime on the 2nd or 3rd November. We’d made plans to head out in the evening on the 2nd but at 8:30 auroral activity was fairly low and it didn’t look as though the storm had arrived just yet. We headed home but I set my alarm for 5:45 to make the most of the promise of clear skies to catch a sight of the pre-dawn planets with Mars and Venus at conjunction.
Rather than head to the beach like last time I just took a wander into the park at the bottom of our road. It was quiet and incredibly still with a heavy dew soaking everything. I padded across the dark grass and set up the tripod below the trees with a nice framed view of the planets. Bright Venus was closely paired with the much dimmer Mars whilst Jupiter sat a little distance up and to the south.
It was a beautiful morning and I watched as a light fog drifted about over the rooftops, occasionally covering the sky. A little while later and the first light of day was tinging the sky. I took a couple more shots from outside the flat before heading back into the warmth for breakfast.
The solar storm finally arrived during the day with winds picking up from 300m/s to 700m/s. There were also hints that the Bz component of the IMF was heading southward – the perfect conditions to spark aurorae at Scottish latitudes. Sadly during the day a thick fog had rolled into Aberdeen, bringing a damp and cloying feel to the city.
After dropping Leslie off at a class in the city I decided to venture west to see whether the fog was lighter out in the shire. The drive was fairly unpleasant, taking it slow on theroad over to Kingswells and then out to Echt and Midmar. Thankfully, after turning off the main road and climbing the bank past Midmar kirk I came out of the fog to find a beautiful starry sky and a wide, faintly green arc across the northern sky. Long exposure photographs immediately revealed some definition and structure to this display of the Northern Lights.
As my eyes adjusted to the dark I could see that there was quite a bit more structure than I had initially thought and watched as the light pulsed gently above the mist and fog. Over me the Milky Way arched and I could hear geese honking as they flew over me somewhere in the darkness.
After this initial bright period the activity seemed to dip for a few minutes so I took the opportunity to have my dinner whilst I continued to take photos and watch the sky. Occasionally scraps of cloud would move uphill and envelop me in the dank murk that reduced visibility.
Around 20:00 activity picked up again and bright patches appeared, rippling along the arc of green and clustering along it's lower edges. The long exposure photographs started to reveal subtle rays along the length of the arc.
Sadly this increase in brightness coincided with a more determined effort from the mist and I found the views gradually disappearing as the cloud drifted further up the hill, eventually completely surrounding me. I needed to get back to Aberdeen and with the views gone decided it was time to pack up and head off.