Aurora Borealis is produced when solar winds sufficiently disturb the magnetosphere of Earth. That’s a sentence to make you feel small.
I’ve been living up in Gamrie Bay, Scotland for the last few months working in the Outer Moray Firth with the Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit. It’s a beautiful place, with huge skies and beautiful landscapes, as well as awesome biological havens such as Troupe Head gannetry and a resident bottlenose dolphin population, but It’s not somewhere I’d have ever imagined seeing the Northern Lights. I don’t know why, I guess it just never crossed my mind. I’ve seen advertised Aurora trips in Iceland and Sweden and other Northerly places, but Scotland rarely gets a mention.
That’s until you get up here, where many locals see the Aurora on the regular and it becomes less of a question of how and more of a question of when. I immediately added AuroraWatch UK to my website favourites and checked every clear night. That’s a great resource, in case you’re not aware of it, providing text alerts when the geomagnetic magnetic energy becomes significant enough to potentially produce an Aurora visible in the UK. The bad news is we don’t get mobile signal here, so the text alerts are useless.
And so the waiting commenced.
To be honest, we’ve had a fair amount of bad luck in spotting it, with huge peaks in geomagnetic activity either being in the middle of the day or during cloudy nights. We even woke up one morning to amazing photographs taken 10 miles down the coast, on an evening where Gamrie Bay seemed to be singularly covered by the Haar (a really cool, Stephen King esque sea fog). But then I turned 27, and after a day of nursing a hangover, attempting to capture an underwater sunset timelapse with huge potential that was foiled by the GoPro being as annoying as usual, and watching the moon rise over a perfectly flat sea, a grid of green and red flashed across the sky.