Islay and the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis)

The people who follow me on Twitter probably noticed the retweet of the aurora alert yesterday evening which was as follows: "RT @Aurora_Alerts: 27 minutes the Aurora should be at 'STORM' LEVEL! It's On!! 6 Kp at softserve news. Some of you might have wondered what the meaning is of this cryptic tweet, let me explain please. Whenever solar activity is high there is a possiblity that the Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) will be visible. Depending on the strength (KP number = Geomagnetic Activity level), the Northern Lights can be seen at a lower or higher latitude on earth. In this map you can find the lines and corresponding KP numbers. As you can see Islay is in between the KP5 (green) and KP7 (yellow) line which means that everytime the Geomagnetic Activity Level is 5 or higher there is a theoretical chance that the Northern Lights are visible on Islay. Since the "storm level" last night was 6Kp there was a good chance that the northern lights could be seen from Islay, especially since Islay has hardly any light pollution. Unfortunately the weather wasn't good enough so yesterday evening and night the Northern Lights weren't visible.

Now I haven't seen the "proper thing" myself. All I witnessed was a white arch of light on the northern horizon seen from the North of Scotland (Wester Ross). Later I found out this was in fact The Aurora Borealis, but I haven't seen the beautiful coloured skies. The fact that last night was potentially a good night to see the lights made me wonder if many people had actually seen anything from Islay. Today I posted a message on Facebook to find out if people had seen the Northern Lights from Islay and I received quiet a few positive responses:

  • I did while I was staying in Portnahaven not much though a little bluish green back in September 2008.
  • As a young girl brought up on Islay I used to love watching the Northern Lights, could sit for hours watching them,fabulous.
  • Watched them all the time when I was younger. Could see them most places on islay. Miss seeing them now I'm no longer on islay.
  • Must have been about 4 or 5 yrs ago this same week was the most fabulous spectacular Nothern lights here at Bunnahabhain, up towards Mull, never seen anything so breathtakingly beautiful before!!
  • Greenish wave in the sky, think it was September 2006, was not as bright as you see in some photographs.
  • My sister has seen them from Bowmore. I have seen them from about half way from Tarbert to Oban.

This proves that there is a good chance to actually witness this spectacle of nature. All you have to do is to find out when the Geomagnetic Activity level is high, Kp number 5 or higher, and hope for a clear sky. One way of finding out is by following Aurora Alerts on Twitter, another way is to sign up for email alerts here. If you want to see what you can possibly, and hopefully, see you can find a nice video below with breathtaking images of the real thing! Happy Aurora hunting and watching!

Tag: northern lights aurora borealis