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Space Ranger

Colourful Aurora from Cairngorm

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Was enjoying the view of the Milky Way reflected in Loch Morlich when I noticed a definite glow on the northern horizon behind me.

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A quick trip part way up Cairngorm mountain afforded this view of the aurora with a bright patch of noctilucent clouds on the right of the image. Views well worth staying up late for.

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Thanks everyone. There has been auroral activity over that last few months that I've missed out on due to it not getting dark where I live (58.5 degrees north). Now the darker nights are almost here I hope this display was a prelude to many more over the coming months. Gordon

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great pics. out of interest when you see auroral activity like in your picture, is it as vivid visually, as that in camera picture, or does camera enhance it a lot? I've never seen an aurora visually yet :)

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great pics. out of interest when you see auroral activity like in your picture, is it as vivid visually, as that in camera picture, or does camera enhance it a lot? I've never seen an aurora visually yet :)

The camera captures the colour in the aurora much better than the naked eye can. I have used photo editing software to increase the intensity of the colours etc in the image posted above. It's similar to photography of deep sky objects - they appear visually as fuzzy greyish objects through small scopes, but long exposures with DSLRs show the colour of the objects far more clearly, and photo editing can really bring out the colour and other detail.

From my experience faint aurora have no discernable colour visually - just a bright glow. Sometimes it just looks like a ghostly whiteish light in the sky. As the human eye is most sensitive to green light, it tends to be the colour seen most clearly in brighter displays. The most obvious thing about a good auroral display for me is its changing nature - both in form and light levels.

Here are some images to illustrate the above points:

I've put together a short timelapse video with the images taken during the display I viewed from Cairngorm. It uses the unprocessed images as taken from the camera and can be found here - www.flickr.com/photos/57299237@N05/9466580975/. The you'll see from it how much I've enhanced the colours by photo editing, and also how dynamic the displays can be at times.

I'm not great at photo editing, but below I've tried to adjust the image posted to give a representation of what this particular display looked like to my naked eye......

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...... you'll see that the colours are very faint, even for this fairly bright display.

Here's another example with a fainter display, this time the top image represents the best naked eye representation I could produce, and the bottom image shows what the camera and photo editing can generate.

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As I said green tends to be the most obvious colour seen. In this photo - www.flickr.com/photos/57299237@N05/8392781135/ the camera picked up red in the display that I could not see at all with the naked eye. All I saw was the bright green component.

I hope all of the above makes sense. Best way to fully appreciate it though is to see it. I'm fortunate to be far enough north to see it fairly often around solar maximum activity :-) Unfortunately you won't see aurora very often from the southern regions of the UK - a trip north would most likely be required.

Gordon

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Brilliant shots Gordon,the milky way has showed up really well in the first image from Morlich and not far to do a quick sprint to Cairngorm when you noticed the aurora which also turned out great.

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Thanks Gordon, no chance from down here. Did used to live nearish Grampian mountains but that was a long while back! Good to see a visual example hope to see for real one day

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Thanks again everyone.

Maciej - looks like you got rather a good view of the display that night too!

Brilliant shots Gordon,the milky way has showed up really well in the first image from Morlich and not far to do a quick sprint to Cairngorm when you noticed the aurora which also turned out great.

I'm glad I spotted the glow to the north in time - I'd have been kicking myself if I found out the next day I'd been in a lovely dark location and missed out on the colourful activity happening behind the tree line.

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