Well it was an interesting evening – it coincided with Kendal’s Torchlight Procession. I wasn’t in the mood so I decided to head out in the hope of seeing the aurora before the Moon rose and washed everything out. It turned out to be the right decision despite all the road closures meaning getting onto the Tebay Road was a nightmare involving visiting Burneside!
I’d spotted on Google Earth a potential observing site – somewhere with a clear northern horizon, well away from light pollution and at a reasonable altitude to get above the valley mists and moisture. The site was just to the north of Orton village at an altitude of 300m or so. On a calm night it was fantastic with great views in all directions but it would be very cold and blustery if windy as there is no shelter at all.
I arrived to find another couple up there from Tebay also hoping to see the aurora. Well despite the hype it was a visual dead loss. Once the Moon was up, everything was washed out other than a faint brightening to the north – the activity seemed to follow the Plough despite the movement of the constellation over the 5 hours or so I was there!
Activity seemed to peak around 10pm. At this point the Moon was up but low on the NE horizon and behind a bank of low cloud, so it had little effect on viewing. There was a vague whitish hue prior to that, easily visible as a green hue with a camera. But nothing to get really excited by compared to the aurora in February. After an hour or so of waiting hopefully, and just before 10pm, I was convinced I could see faint red bands. Wishful thinking? The camera confirmed that there were red bands there. The timing of the images taken are given…
I must stress, it didn’t look like this to the naked eye… the images have had minimal processing in Photoshop, minor levels adjustment and an increase in saturation,and were taken with a Canon EOS 400D, 18mm focal length, typical exposure of between 20 and 40 seconds, f3.5, ISO 1600.
So the best was really all over by just after 22:00. The rest of the night was waiting hoping that activity would really kick off – a forlorn hope. At 23:17, with a now very bright Moon, I took this picture. You can see the lights from Shap cement works [left] and Shap village [centre].
Carol arrived some time around I guess 2300 having bailed out of joining Stu up at Langwathby. She was some sight – she arrived dressed up to the nines in a sequinned dress and high heels straight from a party! So now we know what should be typical EAS observing apparel. Even funnier, she forget to bring any other shoes so we kept hearing the clicking of her heels as she walked around. 🙂
Stu and Stella joined us sometime after midnight so we ended up with 4 EAS members staring at the sky and cursing the Moon before we finally left about 2:30am. The aurora was still there – well at least to the cameras – but the auroral arc had moved considerably north and so was quite low on the horizon and in the misty haze.
Sorry, I’ve rambled on a bit so this has got quite long.