Aurora Borealis above Skibotn Observatory

Aurora Adventures


By Ishbel Carlyle


So as part of my PhD studying the Northern lights, I need to set up a few cameras to film them, so at the start of January I got on a plane and headed up to the artic circle. Specifically, Skibotn observatory, about an hour from Tromsø in Norway. I spent a week with some colleagues from Southampton University building the frame to hold the cameras, aligning the cameras to the stars and setting up the computers. The days were long (if very short in light. The Sun didn't come above the horizon till the 3rd day we were there!) But I also got to see the Aurora in magnificent splendour not once but twice!

The Northern Lights

The first night they started as just a band of light moving slowing from North to South overhead. A few swirls were discernible, and a bit of colour stared to show. This is known as the growth phase of the aurora. It then got cloudy. Even in Norway we get thwarted by the occasional cloud when stargazing. However, on night two I got the expansion phase (the bit where it goes bang). They started off similarly to the night before and then BOOM. They got bright and fast and swirling and twirling, ripples of light going all across the sky. The colours came out too. Minty greens and pinks and purple hues. I'd describe it as a ghost. Definitely coloured and sharp shapes, but still transparent.

Watching the display

Cameras always pick up more signal than our eyes do so the pictures look a bit more dramatic than by eye, but I've have provided a few from different cameras so you can see it was all the same aurora, just different cameras. Tune into our next newsletter where I will be talking more about photography of the Aurora.

The brilliant green colours of the Aurora