A Strange Light

Walk Cycle Vote launch

Launching the We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote campaigners’ day with Professor Chris Oliver

It’s been a busy weekend, with a trip to Glasgow for the We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote training day – which was a blast but also a lot of organising (oh okay, someone else did the organising, I just fired off a few emails and tweets to spread the word and then shared in the praise when it all went off incredibly smoothly) – and so I was just enjoying being collapsed on the sofa with the woodburner going on Sunday evening when a post on Facebook suggested I should get outside and look north because the northern lights were visible in Bigtown which meant they should be even more visible out here.

We’ve been hoping to see the northern lights ever since we moved up here, but so far all we’ve managed has been a faint and somewhat ambiguous glow. Yesterday evening looked as if it wasn’t going to be much different – the sky to the north was definitely lighter than it should have been but it wasn’t the glowing dancing green lights that you see in the photographs of the aurora borealis. However it was a dark night and a clear sky, so we perservered (having gone back in and put on our coats and checked that nothing was boiling over on the stove) and this time we were rewarded with a definite greenish cast to the light and a few vertical streaks which came and went imperceptibly as we watched.

I’ve a feeling that the more spectacular photos – at least this far south – are partly down to long exposure times and look a little bit more impressive than what you actually see for yourself at the time. I did test this theory by trying to take a picture with my phone but it doesn’t actually have a long exposure setting, and I can tell you now that using the ‘fireworks mode’ doesn’t work…

Northern lights, as captured by a Samsung phone camera

I can’t believe I’m actually posting this, the worst photograph of the Northern Lights ever.

The stars, on the other hand, were something else. With no moon and a cold clear frosty night they glittered as we passed under the bare branches of the trees on our way back to house. We really don’t spend enough time appreciating the amazing dark skies we have, with or without any geomagnetic additions

sunny bigtown

Or, indeed, the strange light that has been appearing during daylight hours these last few days

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5 Responses to A Strange Light

  1. Bob says:

    Lovely photo (s).

  2. Ulli says:

    You should come out on a proper night ride at some point. Start cycling around 11pm, preferably on wee roads and in either a dark sky park or with a full-ish moon, and arrive somewhere suitable in time for breakfast :-).
    Night skies, night life (of a different kind, all sorts of big and small furry and winged creatures), a different sound-scape, and I’m told different smells, too!

  3. disgruntled says:

    Bob- thanks!
    Ulli – I do a fair bit of riding home in the proper dark along the wee roads (we’re not so far from the Dark Skies park) but I don’t think I’d manage an overnighter …

  4. Paul M says:

    Passing quickly over your photographic technique – I am so jealous that you got to see the Aurora. We went en famille to Iceland at New Year (a bit extravagant, but with a 19 and a 17 year old it might be our last ever family holiday) in hope of seeing the Lights. We didn’t, in fact we met people who had ten days without a glimpse, largely due to Iceland being cloudy and rainy most of the time. One unfortunate couple had asked their hotel to rouse them in the night if the Lights were sighted, and when they duly appeared in the wee hours the staff managed to forget about them.

    Of course there are other great things to do there. Like learning how to pronounce the name of that volcano which brought European flights to a halt a few years ago (Ey ya fyat la jekull). And although I didn’t see any bike paths, I’d say it would make a great destination for a summer cycle-camping holiday.

  5. disgruntled says:

    Our landlord did go on a northern lights cruise up to Norway and was a bit put out to discover they’d been visible here …

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