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Updated April 19th 2014

WATCH Aurora Alert - April 20th & 21st

Several CMEs are heading for Earth and from recent NOAA forecasts it seems that geomagnetic activity can be expected over the weekend. Models indicate that on their own each CME is not significant however their combined effects when they impact our magnetosphere could be suifficent enough to generate a G1 geomagnetic storm with impact time estimated between Saturday April 20th and Sunday April 21st. Here's the forecast with links below for monitoring near real time activity...

Geophysical Activity Forecast: The geomagnetic field is expected to be at quiet to active levels on day one (19 Apr) and quiet to minor storm levels on days two and three (20 Apr, 21 Apr) with a chance for major storm levels on day two (20 Apr). Protons are expected to remain above the 10 pfu threshold on day one (19 Apr), are expected to cross threshold on day two (20 Apr) and have a chance of crossing threshold on day three (21 Apr).

INCOMING STORM CLOUDS: Three or four CMEs that left the sun earlier this week will arrive in quick succession this weekend. Mostly, the blows they deliver to Earth's magnetic field are expected to be weak, but the combined impacts could stir up significant geomagnetic activity. NOAA forecasters put the odds of a high-latitude geomagnetic storm at 55% on Saturday, increasing to 75% on Sunday. www.spaceweather.com

http://www.spacew.com/plots.html - solar wind & Bz data

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ - NOAA activity page

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/ovation/ - aurora oval forecast

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/alerts/warnings_timeline.html - spaceweather alerts page.

Stars Cars & Burns - Update

Thought I would add a few more images to the site from recent adventures. I was hit suddenly by a very bad flu on Friday night which affected me over the weekend however I'm making a very rapid recovery and didn't let it stop me getting out to take advantage of the recent clear high pressure weather. The above image was captured from the top of Glenshane Pass on Monday night and was a photo shoot for a client - friend and Maghera based personal fitness instructor and Porsche dealer Ciaran Woods. This is a beautiful shinning white Porsche 911 soft top lit into brilliance by a full moon which seemed to sparkle on the bodywork with star trails in the sky above. This was 10mm wide angle and the final result of 144 x 30 sec exposures stacked using startrails.de (free online software) for a duration of 1hr 12 min's, it was very cold waiting exposed on the mountain however the sky was beautiful and peaceful and the chat with Ciaran was great.

This is another star trail captured during our coastal shoot last Thursday night at wide angle with Dunluce castle and adjacent cliffs and coastline under a moody waxing gibbous moon. The original trail was much longer than this version however approaching high level cloud ended up ruining the final stack so I had to re-do the image with half the number of frames when the sky was more clear during the start of the session for a cleaner result.

I have also been out hunting gorse fires these last two days, Monday and Tuesday, the latter was a gorgeous sunny day and several controlled burns where going on far up the mountain, I tried to get to them however they where too far away in the middle of nowhere and I couldn't get a road. However Monday was much better and more dramatic, this was the first notable controlled burn I have seen this season so far, Roisin and I spotted it from Cookstown when a broad funnel of smoke could be seen rising from the Sperrins on the horizon and above the smoke rapid pyro-cumulus formed which was quite impressive so we gave chase and met the fire at the top of Glenshane Pass then pulled onto the shoulder to watch and get images. We reported it to 999 first just in case as it seemed to be spreading from multiple sources and the sun and wind could cause it to spread fast however we were informed that it was a controlled burn so all was good. I didn't even notice these figures until I attached the 100-400mm lens, you can see the guy with a shovel and another with high visibility jacket, there was also a tractor in there somewhere too, it was cool to watch the dark figure getting engulfed by white smoke which made him look unearthly at times.

Short HD video clip showing the Glenshane controlled burn, watch out for the distant figures for a sense of scale, the smoke blowing horizontally across the landscape is quite cool to watch. Video was taken with my Canon 600D through the 100-400mm lens at 400mm. Might do an image report covering all the recent action for a permanent record on the site. The Lyrid meteor shower will soon be here and the NLC season is getting closer too!

Giant's Causeway Star Trail & Video Blog - NEW

Here's another image from our April 10th/11th photo shoot at the Co. Antrim coast. This is my favourite image from the night captured at the Giant's Causeway showing the famous rocks and surrounding coast all lit entirely by the moon with beautiful moonlit ocean waves gently lapping against the shore. 10mm wide angle lens 82 x 30 sec images for a duration of 41 min's, this is my personal favourite star trail image so far.

Full HD video blog documenting the star trail photo shoot, this video is just a bit of fun and experimentation, the video begins at my home then progresses to the road, then our arrival at the north coast where Paul and I watched a lovely sunset with glitter path on the ocean. Then in complete darkness you can follow us as we capture star trails at the Giant's Causeway and Dunluce castle, you can also see an Iridium flare briefly on the video with supporting imagery and finally my first ever attempts at time lapse photography of both locations. I hope you enjoy it, some day soon I will do a proper long duration video clip documenting a storm chase or night shoot which should be great fun.

Giant's Causeway Star Trail - April 11th

At last I got my first clear night in almost three weeks on April 10th/11th and I was ready for it. Met up with Omagh photographer Paul Martin then we hit the coast for a night of star trails. We arrived in time to watch the sun set then spent several hours under perfect clear skies at the Causeway then ended the night at Dunluce Castle. This is one of the final images from the Causeway, this is 144 x 30 sec exposures at 10mm wide angle all stacked together for a duration of 1hr 12 min's - a lot of work go into these. The waxing gibbous moon lit up the coastline and in the foreground my head torch was used to reveal the closer hexagon-shaped volcanic rocks. Two Iridium flares can be seen with a very bright flare evident high up in the northern circumpolar sky. I have another one or two star trails to sort out so I will post those later, also I made a video diary of the shoot too which I will upload to youtube in the near future, its really just a bit of fun.

Monea Castle In Moonlight - Report Online - NEW

Monea Castle In Moonlight

Awesome all-night photo shoot in Co. Fermanagh on March 11th 2014 photographing the beautiful 17th century Monea castle located on the W side of Lower Lough Erne along with photographer Paul Martin. The castle provided an excellent photo opportunity on the clearest night of the year bathed in brilliant moonlight and surrounded with stars aloft before becoming engulfed in eerie pre-dawn moonlit fog. Wonderful photo shoot on an extremely atmospheric night and a location in which we will no doubt be visiting again in the future. One page report with 15 images. - REPORT.

Beaghmore Stone Circles & Lough Fea Crimson Aurora Report - NEW

Beaghmore Stone Circles Aurora Report

The finest aurora display I have witnessed in over a decade announced itself in the evening sky after sunset on Feb 27th 2014 when a CME delivered a glancing blow which generated a stunning G2 geomagnetic storm. The aurora almost reached the zenith with striking green and red colours with extremely rare orange rays which gave the impression of a crimson veil or glowing fire in the sky, even the frost on the ground was glowing red. This report documents in detail the events leading up to this storm beginning with a storm chase to the Antrim coast then the rapid dash south where I met up with Paul Martin and Jude Browne at Beaghmore stone circles and Lough Fea in Co. Tyrone where we watched in awe as the aurora went into outburst, this was a night we will never forget. One page report with 14 images. - REPORT.

Epic Glenshane Pass & Swatragh Church Moonlit Snow Report - NEW

Epic Glenshane Pass & Swatragh Church Moonlit Snow Adventure

Epic 13 hour Winter photo shoot with Paul Martin documenting beautiful moonlit snow scenes on Glenshane Pass where we photographed an old derelict stone house covered in glorious moonlit snow with stars accompanied by a 5ft snow drift. This was followed by an adventure through the stunning snow-covered Coleraine Road outside Maghera then ending the night shooting the famous Swatragh church and graveyard covered in magical pre-dawn snow. Two page report with 31 images & 1 video clip. - PAGE 1, PAGE 2

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports

N. Ireland Storm Image Reports

Astronomy is not the only subject I am 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