Wicklow Skies Astrophotography captures rare phenomenon

Last Sunday night social media went wild as the rare spectacle of the Northern Lights appeared all over the country, even as far south as Kerry.

If you didn’t manage to see them take a look at the stunning images taken by Enda Kelly of Wicklow Skies Astrophotography.

Enda tells us of his adventure on Sunday night.

“Over the weekend, I had been reading online about a potential CME (coronal mass ejection) impact and then on Sunday evening, my social media timeline started to light up with reports of Aurora all over Ireland.

I’d seen one report (and photo) of it showing up as far South as Waterford so with the skies being clear (and the kids gone off to bed of course), I figured I’d take the camera and tripod out toward Wicklow Head to see what I could capture. I’d never seen the Northern Lights before so didn’t really know what to expect and I was assuming the light pollution from Dublin/Bray would wash it out, but once I got out into the darkness and had a glance North, I knew it was game on.

There was a very clearly naked eye visible red glow stretching really high up from the horizon nearly as far as the Plough in Ursa Major and when I flipped open the camera and pointed it out to Sea, to say it took my breath away is no exaggeration. The beauty of a mirrorless camera is you can see the shot as-is on the LCD screen and the pillars of light and the greens and reds were just so clear and vibrant, I knew I was onto something special.

I spent about an hour out around the Old lighthouse just taking shots from different angles as the Aurora reds fluctuated in intensity. Unfortunately by the time word got around the next day, despite the KP Index still being high on Monday night, we had total cloud cover, so I got very lucky in that regard.

Full disclosure to anyone who might want to go ‘chasing the lights’ in future. This event was extremely rare, being able to see the reds with the naked eye is even more rare and just to set expectations, what you see with the naked eye is nothing like what you’ll capture on camera.

The camera picks up detail that the human eye just can’t resolve, so if you’re looking to catch the next one, definitely bring a camera (even a phone camera will do) as you will need to expose for a few seconds at least.

By the way, if anyone is interested in learning more about capturing the night sky, I’ll be giving a talk in Arklow library on March 23rd between 7 & 8pm as part of the nationwide ‘Astronomy Week’ https://www.irishastronomyweek.ie/ where I hope to speak about how to get started shooting the night sky with basic equipment and what you can capture around our wonderful dark skies in Co. Wicklow.”

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