Aurora Blushing Bright

I couldn’t be less of a night owl. Unless something exceptional is happening, I’m tucked up by 11pm and asleep minutes later. This means that I routinely miss the northern lights, which appear in the sky above my village several times each winter and early spring, and I wake up the following morning kicking myself at the missed opportunity.

So naturally, when the alert came last week I was already in pyjamas. Luckily I hadn’t yet nodded off, so I scrabbled for thermals, camera and tripod and legged it outside. I could already see pillars of aurora even through the streetlights, so I felt the familiar dread that I’d missed the peak of activity. Still, I was grateful to be seeing this crazy phenomenon that I so often sleep through.

At 23.22 something caught my eye right over my head. I thought it was either a shooting star or one of my extensive collection of eye floaters, but when it didn’t stop I realised it was the aurora. Bizarrely for Scotland, the beams had stretched all the way up the sky and were flickering in so many different directions that I couldn’t look at them all at once. A massive diagonal column slanted to the side of me and a narrow band pulsed above me every few seconds.

In my bleary-eyed confusion, I’d grabbed a lens that was a bit too cropped for landscapes, and while I got some interesting close-up shots of the pillars, I was keen to photograph the whole sky. So I gallantly ran home (up a very steep hill I might add) to switch lenses. I arrived back just as the sky turned raspberry. I couldn’t see that colour of course, but my camera picked up a vivid blush across the entire horizon, layered above the more usual green aurora.

Some folk say they can see the colours but I’ve never been able to, not even when I watched the northern lights in Arctic Norway. I don’t mind seeing silver instead though – what I love most is the movement. Wisps of light being blown by an undetectable wind is the most surreal thing I’ve ever witnessed, and I jumped up and down in the pitch black with my hands clapped over my mouth until well after 1am.

Here’s a short time lapse of my photos from the night. I don’t pretend to be skilled at either astrophotography or time lapses, but I had to give it a try to show just how jiggy the aurora was!

I said I didn’t stay up late unless something exceptional was happening, and that display qualified. I was a wide-eyed night owl at last. 

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