Last night I stayed up until well beyond the wee small hours and am now paying the price!! Why? Well, at some point during yesterday afternoon I received an E-mail from Aurora Watch UK advising that overnight 22/23 June there was a chance of seeing the aurora borealis ( Northern Lights ). It was a Red Alert message ( the highest category of likelihood ) so with sandwiches made and a variety of TV programmes selected I commenced my sojourn, leaping up every fifteen minutes or so to carry out a check outside.
I now feel I could become an overnight broadcaster, a press preview expert and an advisor on the Greek financial crisis ! Of the Northern Light phenomenon there was no sign, not even in the optimum forecast period around 0300 -0400 hours. I confess I "faded" a couple of times and fervently hope I didn't miss the action as a consequence. Having only seen this phenomenon once during living on Islay I can attest to it being something everyone should make an attempt to see. The colours and sheer majesty of the sky wide spectacle is absolutely amazing. On the occasion it happened previously it was around Christmas and the range and depth of purple and green colours was fantastic......a far better experience than the solar eclipse also witnessed from here a little later.
Despite this disappointment I shall continue to try and would recommend it to everyone. Obviously the farther north you get the better your chances are, and there are issues with light pollution I guess too. Take a look at Aurora Watch UK and also www.aurora-service.eu and sign up for alerts if you want to try it for yourself. The latter has access to NASA's ACE spacecraft as well as receiving data from a network of magnetometers worldwide. There's an image on their home page showing the current level of activity and a short term forecast too, including details of kp numbers ( planetary index ) . Don't know your kp number? Here's your big chance and an opening to a lifetime's absorbing pastime. Best of luck!
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