Northern lights display: Donegal skies transformed


NATURE PUT on one of its most awe-inspiring shows over north Donegal with a rare glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, better known as the Northern Lights.

The stunning display was seen by thousands of people and captured on camera along the north Donegal coast on Sunday night and yesterday morning.

Amateur astronomer Brendan Alexander captured his photograph during a parting of the clouds on Sunday night when the rain stayed away just long enough to give him a chance to take the images.

The photograph was taken from Fanad Head in northern Donegal between 8.30pm and 9pm on Sundaynight.

The photographer said he used a Canon camera with a 30-second exposure. Mr Alexander had been tracking a solar flare since it was reported by Nasa to have erupted from the Sun’s surface last Thursday. Auroras occur when ionised particles from the sun hit the earth’s atmosphere and react with the gases, in this case oxygen which gives off the red and green colours.

They occur at extreme latitudes because the ions are attracted towards the magnetic poles.

They are not usually seen as far south as Ireland, but this one has. It was due to hit earth’s atmosphere at 10.30pm on Saturday, but it did not come until Sunday morning and the activity levels kept building during the day.

The Kp, or radiation level, which is a measure of how strong the display will be, was between 4.5 and 5, enough for the lights to be seen from Donegal, but it needs a 6 for the view to be seen across Ireland.

Those who missed the Northern Lights on Sunday night may have another chance in the next couple of days.

The sun, which is going through its active phase at the moment, threw off its biggest solar flare for six years yesterday morning.

The flare is travelling at an estimated 6.7 million km/h towards earth.

It is due to hit earth tonight and into the early hours of tomorrow morning.