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Updated September 1st 2015

Portglenone & Ballymena Thunderstorm - Aug 29th

On Saturday I intercepted a nice thunderstorm in the Ballymena area during the late afternoon. Storms looked to favour eastern areas and based on my own forecasting I expected the best risk of a storm to be in the Ballymena/Antrim area, as luck would have it I had to be in Ballymena on this particular day on personal business so I was anticipating a storm encounter on the way home. That was exactly how things panned out, on the way out of town I spotted this cell to the SW so we took a turn off the main road and ventured deep into the countryside and found a great vantage point across flat countryside with beautiful fields and even a small farm for foreground interest. The storm was moving slowly towards us and to the NE at the same time so we had plenty of time to watch it advance closer and closer, I set up my video camera in the field and acquired a nice section of time lapse footage of the entire storm trekking across the countryside in our direction, it crossed the River Bann, Portglenone then into the Ballymena area.

When it hit it delivered heavy rain, overhead lightning and very loud thunder which was quite impressive, I was filming it from inside the car with two different cameras.

The storm cleared through so we chased after it through the back roads and sometime later we arrived outside Ballymena and watched it depart into the NE over Slemish Mountain with sunlit base, towers, precip curtains with hail and sections of rainbow, the scene was rather dramatic and beautiful with the moody storm over the sunlit fields.

Video footage of the storm with time lapse segments, best watched in full HD. This was a really fun chase which felt more like what a true storm day should be in this country with a good storm then back to sunshine, blue skies, bubbling convection and new cells growing in the wake of the parent storm and all enjoyed on a warm and humid Summer's day sweating in a T-shirt - now that's been rare this year. I will do a report on all the latest convective happenings in the near future.

Storms & Full Moon Aurora - Aug 27th

I've been busy the last two days and nights doing photography with weather and storms by day and two nights in a row of geomagnetic storms at the Co. Antrim coast. On Thursday we had a cell pass through Maghera sporting a superb primary and secondary rainbow, I managed to get some video of this from an upstairs window which turned out quite cool showing the bow vanishing from the sky like a drawn curtain, the video of this is on down this page. I chased the cell into the Maghera countryside and got images as the cell cleared into the distance, it looked quite impressive over the fields with a segmented rainbow, dense precip curtains and anti-crepuscular rays, this was actually the first decent light I've had for weather/storm photography this year since May. I also saw a c-g behind the Sperrins and heard a rumble of thunder, at last some interesting weather!. That night I was at Dunluce castle, spotted a weak aurora however I was clouded out for much of the night, despite all that I got to meet John Fagan on location and did a DSLR time lapse of the castle, I was back home for 04.00 UT.

Thursday night and my second night in a row at the coast and this time with good clear skies and a near full moon. This was taken when twilight was merging into astronomical darkness, I could see the aurora with the naked eye before it even got dark and even a few faint rays, this was Ballintoy harbour at 10mm, the subdued green glow is the aurora with the blue/purple colour the upper fringe, the band was covering an extensive area of sky and 15-20 degrees high.

An early outburst when the aurora intensified and produced this solitary green and purple ray which looked great behind the rocks, however it calmed down after this. Later I met Brian Fullerton and another outburst happened with vivid green rays however cloud moved in during that crucial moment before clearing again, I have other images from this location which I will post another time.

This was the view behind me looking across Roark's cottage with the aurora glow visible to the NE with moon just rising above the crest of the hills and beginning to illuminate the coastline.

I spent between 02.00 and 03.00 UT at the Giant's Causeway under clear skies, I met John again and Andrew, the aurora was visible as an aqua-marine glow to the naked eye however no further major ray activity appeared, I used the time to do this time lapse with the DSLR at 10mm showing the beautiful Causeway bathed in moonlight. I was back home for 03.30 UT.

The impressive vanishing rainbow from Maghera earlier in the day with precip curtains and anti-crepuscular rays, this is speeded up 8x, 16x and 32x times to show the motion, wish I had filmed this across a nice field or lake.

DSLR time lapse of Dunluce castle from the first night showing clouds and clear gaps moving across this dramatic landscape.

This was after 19.00 UT on Wednesday evening from the Maghera countryside, I filmed this very heavy downpour, there was actually thunder reported from this too however the rain was so loud I couldn't even hear the thunder, the roads flooded rapidly and a jogger entered the field of view for added drama. I also observed three areas of rotation under a cell near Coalisland earlier this same day.

Q106 Radio Interview - NEW

On Friday morning I was interviewed by Curtis McCosh from Q106 radio all about my website and my passion for the night sky and storms. This is the full interview which was featured on the radio that morning, I have added a selection of my astronomical and storm images as a visual aid to compliment the audio, hope you enjoy it, thanks very much for listening.

Lough Erne All Night Perseid Meteor Watch Report - NEW

Perseid Meteor Shower Report

On August 12th 2015 we did an all night Perseid meteor shower watch from a jetty located at a terrific viewing location across Lower Lough Erne in Co. Fermanagh. Despite weather concerns earlier in the evening we got treated to pristine clear skies for the entire event and logged an astonishing 477 Perseids including several fireballs making this the best Perseid meteor shower we have ever observed to date, the thrilling night was complimented by a vibrant Milky Way and even a surprise faint aurora with rays across a lake covered in a blanket of mist. One page report with 12 images. - REPORT.

Portstewart Jellyfish & Basking Sharks - Aug 18th

What a stunning day on the north coast this was, 100% blue skies, barely a cloud in sight, relentless sunshine and intense heat, I went to the coast in the hope of getting imagery or video footage of Dolphins and Sharks which have been reported in the area in recent days however I never seen a single thing from shore at various locations. I spent a lot of time under the sun with the camera and almost ended up with heat stroke after a few of hours of being close to the sea. I did get the pleasure of watching several beautiful Jellyfish swimming in the deep water at Portstewart Harbour during the afternoon, thanks to calm seas and good light the sea was very transparent allowing for good marine watching conditions.

These were taken with the 400mm lens which allowed me to get in close, these are wonderful creatures to watch and totally fascinating, I took many images from here, it felt strange to be pointing my camera down instead of up!

Video footage taken with the DSLR and 400mm lens, their movement was nothing short of angelic, I'm glad I captured some of these on video, if you look closely at the pulsating patterns you can see a golden form manifesting inside the silvery membrane of the main Jellyfish.

This footage was taken last week on a boat at sea near Portrush and the Giant's Causeway showing several large Basking Sharks, their abrupt dorsal fins were spectacular and looked like a scene straight from Jaws. I would love to get more footage in the near future, there has been some remarkable sightings recently from Malin Head in Co. Donegal also.

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image 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