Aurora Borealis display from Inverness

I got lucky the other night and snapped the northern lights from my house in Inverness looking over towards the Black Isle. I was out filming for a stargazing video and noticed the bright glow naked eye.

Many people living in the north of Scotland wonder why they’ve never seen the northern lights because they’re more common than you might think.

Three of the main problems:

1. We hardly ever go outside in the cold of winter and spend so much time indoors.
2. Too much light pollution.
3. Looking in the wrong direction.

And here’s some simple solutions:

1. Get outside more and go for night walks – something I’ve been doing even more during lockdown.
2. Walk somewhere local but away from street lights. Try to get elevated – a local wood or hill perhaps.
3. Look North.

The Inverness Courier shared the image with a short story here.

The Northern Lights

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The northern lights looking over the Beauly firth towards the Black Isle, Inverness-shire

After reports of a KP6 geomagnetic storm predicted to strike Scotland over the weekend, and clear skies on Sunday evening, I headed out after sunset to try and catch the northern lights.  This was a very early aurora excursion as nights have only just got dark enough for decent views of the night sky, let alone tracking down the faint and elusive northern lights.

My initial outing took my into the hills above Bunchrew where I bagged some lovely views of the summer Milky Way overhead.  Turning my attention north I noticed a faint arc of light on the horizon,  and sure enough some test shots picked up a vibrant band of purple and green auroral light.  However little structure was evident until I moved to lower elevations, reaching the Bunchrew shoreline just after 10.30pm.

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The Milky Way near Cygnus, framed between trees above Bunchrew.

From this new vantage, in the dark looking over the Beauly Firth,  the northern lights stood out much more clearly as distant columns of white light, slowly morphing and scintillating above the horizon.  Some of the images (attached) show nice structure and the suggestion of wave like movement.

As our nights get darker many more opportunities to view the aurora will present themselves.  The best strategy is to simply get out there as often as you can when it’s clear, and try and escape the boundaries of light polluted towns and cities.  Aurora forecasts should only be used as a guide as they’re seldom reliable.  Remember to look north and where possible find some nice low horizons in this direction.

Good luck and clear skies.

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The aurora is caused by the solar wind slamming into the earth’s atmosphere near the poles, ionising chemical elements which produce light at very specific quantised frequencies.