Impression of the Aurora Borealis: 6th - 7th April 2000


As it was generally clear I went out about 20:30h to set up for photographing the lunar conjunction with Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Packing up in the fading twilight I glanced skywards towards the Plough and noted an unusual red streak resembling a long, thin cloud coloured red by the setting sun. But the light couldn’t have come from the sun. Watching and wondering I was surprised when a white streak appeared nearby. Puzzled, having never seen anything like this before, I went home somewhat disbelieving that what I had seen was an aurora because (in my limited experience) I considered it to be too bright and too high in the sky.

To get a better view I travelled to darker sites and it was thrilling to watch; definitely the best display I had ever seen. Since 2000 is the year of the solar maximum I had been looking forward to an opportunity to view the Northern lights or the Aurora Borealis, but I didn’t expect it to be so “in your face”, something that could not go unnoticed, even to a casual observer. The aurora filled the entire sky with colour- greens and reds and whites, never still- always changing. I was treated to most of the auroral formations that I had seen in photographs on the Internet, beams, curtains and a magnificent corona above the sickle of Leo, with beams of colour radiating out from a reddish region about 25 degrees in diameter.

Particularly impressive was the sight of Orion low in the west with persistent red and green bands passing through stretching up from the horizon to Gemini. At times the light was so bright that it all but obliterated the brighter stars shining through it. Reports have indicated that the display went on all through the night, but by 01:30h, with the display still in full flight, it was time to go home to bed and prepare for work in the morning.