It was 10:30pm and after a delicious dinner with friends in Tobermory, I was back at Glengorm, entertaining thoughts of a duvet, hot water bottle and my new book. Since the night sky was so incredibly clear, it seemed rude not to quickly check the aurora forecast before bed. One last hook-up to the World-Wide-Web. Just in case.

‘In 12 minutes, the Geomagnetic Activity level (Kp number) will be 4.66- VERY ACTIVE’

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Willowbank Observatory, Pennyghael, Isle of Mull. Simple Auroral Magnetometer http://www.marsport.org.uk/observatory/index.php

Before the thought of pyjamas could even creep back into my head, I was donning thermals, throwing on a woolly hat and flinging camera gear and a flask of hot chocolate into the car as my boyfriend and I made a quick dash for the Glengorm masts to see what we could see.

About half way between Glengorm Castle and Tobermory, is a hill perfect for panoramic views and a spot of night sky watching.  Stumbling in the dark to the tip of the hill, the wind whistled through every nook and cranny that our lazy, last-minute outdoor dressing had provided. Bracing ourselves against the wind, we could see a dim glow not unlike light-pollution above the Ardnamurchan peninsula. But with no city lying on that distant land, it was safe to say that what we could see was Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights.

Whether a hazy glow, or a dancing spectacle of lights. The aurora never fails to impress. Quite content with our ‘light pollution’ aurora that could be picked up by my camera, we stayed a while longer. Just in case.

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Aurora Borealis over Ardnamurchan

After a few swigs of hot chocolate (which I forgot I was sharing and drank nearly all to myself!) the spectacle got better. Squeals of excitement could be heard as pillars of light danced across the horizon, a short rippling of an aurora curtain and a definite green hue poking out from behind the clouds. The shutter release was pressed repeatedly, with occasional quick darting glances to see what magic was being picked up on the screen. An image for memory’s sake.

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Aurora Borealis over Ardnamurchan

 

Then, as if we’d been dreaming, the light dimmed and the clouds drew in. Ending our simply marvellous, spontaneous outdoor excursion.

Aurora Selfie

Aurora Selfie

The difficulty with aurora is that you are unable to watch the incredible spectacle and then simply go to bed. You’re surrounded by thoughts of ‘what if?’ You return to your house buzzing, with a thirst for more. Pouring over your photos (realising that in all the excitement, being blown by the wind and with cold fingers, you didn’t quite get the settings right!), you continually refresh every aurora forecast website that you know and contemplate whether it really is worth going to bed. Should you head outside just once more?

 

 

In 32 minutes, the Geomagnetic Activity level (Kp number) will be 6- STORM LEVEL!’

Back in the car, this time to the castle. Gloves on, tripod sturdy, camera settings adjusted.  But the aurora was fading, and with it so were we. An evening of elation soon became overwritten by tiredness and a realisation that the best was over. It was time to go home. Time to sleep. Time to dream about what we had just seen.

Glengorm Castle Night Sky

Glengorm Castle

 

Useful websites for Aurora spotting:

http://www.marsport.org.uk/observatory/index.php

http://softservenews.com/

http://www.aurora-service.eu/

http://aurorawatch.lancs.ac.uk/

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