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Updated June 23rd 2017

Update - June 23rd

Not a lot going on at the moment regarding sky action. Last week I bagged two NLC displays, they were both weak shows and no brighter than type 2.5 or 3 at best with soft structure. A heat wave in the Mesosphere killed off NLC activity during the start of June however the region is cooling now for NLCs to form so the season has got off on the wrong foot, something which I have never seen before, it seems the NLCs are recovering now rather slowly. That being said I did shoot time lapse on both nights so I'm currently waiting on a good clear night and a bright complex display to shoot more time lapse in the near future if the clouds will relent, I'm patiently waiting for the kind of epic structure I have in mind, not dissimilar to what I witnessed in 2009, however that was rare and will take some personal beating. I'm currently doing a lot of drone filming while waiting on sky action this season.

Drone Footage of Star Pride Cruise Ship Leaving Portrush - NEW

Drone Flight 468. June 14th 2017, two cruise ships arrived at Portrush in the morning, the slick looking Star Pride complimented by the Silver Explorer. Both vessels made for a stunning sight anchored off shore to visitors entering Portrush. Tenders carried passengers from both ships to shore all day so they could visit the famous coastal route including the Giant's Causeway. I arrived on location with another drone pilot with the intention of getting aerial footage, however the wind was gusting very strong at 22mph or 19 knots which is the top speed of the Phantom as quoted by DJI so it looked like we wouldn't be flying today at all, futhermore the wind was blowing off the land from the S which made matters worse so we spent the time taking stills and video with our DSLRs, I used the 100-400mm Canon USM lens, it was difficult even to hold the camera straight in the gusts. We spent hours here watching and waiting while getting buffeted by the wind. The Silver Explorer left and there was nothing we could do about it, then at 19.30 the wind suddenly eased a little, my friend measured 16mph and we decided it was possible to fly. Ship details...

Name: Star Pride
IMO: 8707343
Flag: Bahamas
Gross Tonnage: 9975
Size: 133.4m x 20.5m
Built: 1988

I put the props on the P3A and launched and hovered, the aircraft was holding its position very well, despite being 16mph or 14 knots it felt so much worse in person, so I did a test flight 300m out and came back into a keen partial cross wind and she handled it perfectly, we were good to go. My friend flew out first for aerial stills, when he came back I flew out and filmed her while still at anchor, however I wanted to get her moving, suddenly the engines started up and smoke issued from her funnels and she was about to leave.

I flew back to shore as fast as I could to change batteries, my friend did this battery swap for me while I kept an eye on the vessel (good team work to save time), then we hand launched back into the windy air again and I gave chase low across the sea as the Star Pride began leaving for a new destination in Scotland, at one stage I was 3m over the sea surface when I reached her, tracked the vessel, did a 180 degree wrap then emerged on her port side in the sunlight. I lost signal in the app once, that's when I suddenly climb in altitude to stay out of harms way, then I recovered the app quickly and continued on. I kept the flight short as I needed all the remaining battery power to get back to shore fighting the strong cross wind. The flight went perfectly, I got the footage I wanted and the day was a success. Drone within visual line of sight, spotter used, weather relented in the last minute to get this flight done, well worth all the hours spent monitoring the weather, thanks for watching. See flickr gallery for DSLR still images.

Storm Chasing, Convergence Zones & Funnel Clouds - NEW REPORT

Report detailing six days of storm chasing between May and June 2017 featuring a selection of local chases along Glenshane Pass and Benbradagh mountain where I spotted two funnel clouds followed by the biggest set-up of the year with 2000 CAPE which resulted in a long drive to Mullaghmore in Co. Sligo. The account then gathers pace with several marginal events which produced a storm cell with strong outflow winds and time lapsed convection at Lough Foyle then climaxing with my third funnel cloud catch of the season outside Cookstown from Tuyllhogue Ring Fort followed by a rotating storm base over the town itself, all from low CAPE but slack convergence zone set-ups. One page report with 16 images and 4 video clips. - REPORT.

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports

Astronomy is not the only subject I'm interested in. One other such area is severe weather which will be playing a major role on nightskyhunter from now on in conjunction with my other astronomical pursuits. Check out my new N. Ireland Storm Chasing section and view the chase reports and images which detail not only storms but other phenomena such as a moonbows, noctilucent clouds and aurora displays.

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Martin McKenna