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All posts in Northern Lights

Does Santa fly along the Christmas Eve Northern Lights to Ireland

Does Santa fly along the Christmas Eve Northern Lights to Ireland

Christmas time is magical in Ireland, and in the wee hours of Christmas Eve Northern Lights lit up the sky in the North & northwest; here are photos.

Meanwhile in the southeast of Ireland, in county Kilkenny lambs were being born, and 3 Wise Women followed the light in the sky, hoping to see the gift of Peace unfold in a stable, even between the great hurling rivals of Kilkenny and Tipperary. See the video below 🙂

PS :  there is a giant gap before you will get to the video. Please just scroll down, as I can’t seem to fix that. Thank you! HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!

 

As well as the first lambs being born, county Kilkenny was an exciting place to be as Kilkenny.com filmed 3 Wise Women as they came to the end of their long journey… 


Stunning!

The display of the Northern Lights in Ireland 27 February 2014 was unforgettable. Here are some of the best photos:


On your bucket list?

The Northern Lights- In Ireland! Here are some tips and photos.

Yes, sometimes you can see the aurora borealis from Ireland, mainly in the northern parts of the island, although in 2003 I saw them in county Kilkenny. Since 2012 there have been a few lovely flare-ups, and Ireland is on the lookout for the Northern Lights again after the 9 January 2014 solar flare. Twitter has been buzzing with aurora chat! @fintaann caught some:

One of the top aurora spotters in Ireland has been Brendan Alexander of Donegal Skies. If you’d like to know where & when to watch the skies he’s a good person to follow; on twitter @DonegalSkies . Here’s his video of the Northern Lights dancing in Ireland. Beautiful, isn’t it?

Aurora Explosion Over Ireland from Brendan Alexander on Vimeo.

Additionally, there’s now a new  Aurora Alert account for Ireland, on Twitter. Worth a follow!

If you’d like to see and possibly photograph the Lights for yourself, I’ve a few tips. (Tips for those of us that aren’t already knowledgeable photographers!) I managed to capture the Northern Lights using only a little point & shoot camera- it can be done, but you do need to do a few things first in order for it to capture the aurora.

 

The Northern Lights in Ireland

The Northern Lights interwoven with a cloudy section of sky

Tip One:

Plan your trip for when the moon is dark, or only a sliver. That way, even if the Northern Lights are only force 2 on the scale of 1 to 10, you still have a chance to see them- they won’t be competing with moonlight. During our trip the strength forecast was 2 & 3 and we still saw fantastic Lights as there was no moon. Obviously the same is true for artificial lights, so get out of built up areas. For aurora alerts & information anywhere in the world, check out Aurora Alerts.

Tip Two:

If you are taking photos, a good camera & lens is necessary, especially if the aurora isn’t bright. We just had a little Samsung digital point & shoot, and we set the ISO to 800, though the longest exposure time available to us was just 16 second. Apparently 20-40 second exposure is ideal. Still- we are thrilled to have gotten the photos we do have.

Also, use a tripod– you’ll need it for the long exposure. It is impossible to hold any camera perfectly still for the time needed- especially in the cold! Also, do note that cold makes the camera battery drain faster, so bring a back up or try to keep the camera warm in your coat between shots. And sadly the chances of your camera phone getting a good photo are often slim. We tried. Perhaps if the Lights were very very bright… but don’t go out with just your phone or you’ll likely only end up with photos of blackness. Your eye may see the lights, but your phone’s camera can’t capture them.

One thing that pictures cannot convey is the amazement of standing under the Northern Lights as they swirl overhead. Nor can a photograph duplicate the excitement/fright we felt as a huge green blast violently erupted from the cloud cover like a n enormous glowing green volcano in the sky. I also never managed to capture the multi-coloured, dancing Lights we saw but I’ll always remember them. And though what you see in almost any aurora photo is colour-boosted so they’ll show up better (the Lights are not that electric to the naked eye)  the Lights are still more magical in real life. I hope you get to see them one day.

Did you know there is an Astronomy Trail across Ireland? And that southwest county Kerry is now a rare gold tier Dark Sky park? There’s so much beauty in Ireland–night and day 🙂

Here’s another Aurora Borealis video from Donegal, this time by Mark Nolan & Stoycho Daniv. Lovely!

Malin Head Aurora from Mark Nolan on Vimeo.

We went to Northern Norway last year & saw the aurora 6 out of 7 nights! You can see some of the photographs that we took here. Have a look 🙂

 


Northern Lights, Tagnes, Tromso, Norwat

This long helix of the Northern Lights was amazing

Is there anyone who wouldn’t enjoy looking at the Aurora Borealis?

Or anyone who wouldn’t enjoy at least one of these: good food, spectacular scenery, traditional and modern arts & culture, friendly people and, oh yes, a sea eagle or 2?

Who wouldn’t want go to Norway to experience all those things? Oh, wait, I see– you would like to go, but…Norway’s expensive, right?

Well, yes– BUT we found some ways to save lots on our trip, and we think we had a better Norwegian experience for it!

We visited in winter, hoping to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis,) as many hope to– and we did. Not just once, or twice, or even 3 times. We saw the magical lights dance on 6 nights of our 7 night stay! 

Several factors came together to make this possible- and none of them involved taking an expensive Northern Lights chasing tour. (I’m not knocking them- we just couldn’t afford to go on one, with the cheapest single night’s chase aboard a big tour bus costing around €125 per person.)

Tips: Seeing the Northern Lights

1. Plan your trip for when the moon is dark, or only a sliver of waxing or waning. That way, even if the lights are only force 2 on the scale of 1 to 10, you still have a chance to see them- they won’t be competing with moonlight. During our trip the strength forecast was 2 & 3 and yet we still saw fantastic Lights as they didn’t have to compete with moonlight.

 

de rode huset, outside of Tromso Norway. Beautiful traditional cabin

2. Get out of the city/suburbs. As with the moon, light pollution can drown out the quieter auroras.

We stayed at this wonderfully charming restored cabin, dating from the 1880’s. It is  wonderfully situated by a large fjord- brilliant aurora-wise because there is lots of open space to view the sky. To have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights you want as much of a 360 degree view of the sky as possible. We saw them from all areas of the sky, not just the North.
Additoinally ,it was a blessing to have a prime viewing spot just 40m from the house, so we could take aurora spotting in shifts. The Lights can appear at any point/s after dark. They tend to show up between 6pm to 2am in the Tromso area of Norway; a long night in the cold!

3. Get a Norwegian SIM card for your phone (will tell you more in another post, but Telenor have an affordable one) and check the European aurora forecast on sites like http://www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/Europe. On the right hand side of the site you’ll see 2 wee maps- they get updated every couple of hours- they’ll help give you a rough guide as to what expect. (PS: UT is pretty much GMT- and Norway is 1 hr ahead.) The sun’s cycle is meant to be active this year (2013), so it’s a good time to go. (Lights season generally Oct- March. We went in Feburary.)

 
Northern lights outside of tromso norway

4. Keep your eye on the weather forecast, & if you’ve rented a car (about €350 a wk for a compact car in winter) you may be able to drive away from cloudy skies. We had no car, but did have some cloudy skies. Yet we still got to see the Lights in between the clouds. Also remember that just because ’tis cloudy doesn’t mean it will remain so– and ALWAYS keep checking for yourself rather than relying just on forecasts of weather or aurora!

 

5. I don’t have to tell you to dress *very* warmly & in layers, do I? 🙂 You will see the lights better from outside– although we saw many from the house windows! If you are taking photos, a good camera is necessary, especially if the lights aren’t storm force bright. We just had a little Samsung digital, and though we set the ISO to 800, the longest exposure time available was 16 sec. Apparently 20-40 is ideal. Still- we are thrilled to have the ones we do, and are so glad we bought a tripod.

northern lights over the fjord, vagnes, norway
 

You must have a tripod for those long exposures; there’s no way to hold a camera absolutely still for so long and in the cold. We got a great value one for about €25 on this site. As I said, we did get pics, but many were disappointing , & none were like the fancy ones you need the good gear for. Buying a really good camera is now on my bucket list! 

 

Don’t forget to charge up the camera fully, & bring extra batteries if possible. The cold drains them quickly. Putting the camera in your coat when not in use will help save them, too.

 

The last night we were at the cabin we went to bed early as there were no Lights to been seen, it was cloudy, & we had to get up at 3.30 a.m. to start our journey back to Ireland.

Luckily, though, I woke a bit after midnight & looked out the window. A HUGE array of dancing, shooting, red and green Lights FILLED the sky! I quickly woke Terry, and we watched as the aurora played. It was the best we had seen! When it quelled a bit, we hurriedly dressed, got the camera & went outside. But the show was over. Though I stayed up the rest of the night hoping for pictures, listening to the waves & the occasional seabird’s call, the Lights had waved us their goodbye. And we loved it.

Here are some more of our Northern Lights photos. I’ll have more Norway photos & tips, plus the info on the wonderful, affordable place we stayed, in upcoming posts. If YOU’VE  got Northern Lights tips or stories, please do share in the comment section at the end of the post. 🙂
Thank you! Susan

northern lights erupt from cloud, norway
The Northern Lights blasting out of a cloud, Norway. There were red shoots, too, but I didn’t get pic in time. Was scary!
large swathe of green aurora borealis norway
The Aurora (Northern Lights) over the fjord, Norway
green swirls of aurora over the fjord norway
A beautiful swirl of aurora over the fjord, Norway