Wow - I saw the aurora borealis in Margate!!
I still can't believe it! I saw the aurora borealis in Margate in the wee small hours of 24th April 2023, exactly a month after I saw them at Botany Bay, Thanet.
The space weather stats had been off the hook all evening but we were under immense cloud here. I saw an alert just after 3.30am, so checked to see if there were clear skies. After a quick test shot, I could see pink glowing through gaps in the cloud (which seemed to be clearing quickly). It would be a race against light, with the last of the night fading into twilight.
I decided to go to Margate Main Sands. I'd always wanted to capture the aurora there, but it would be challenging due to the intense light pollution.
4.01am - my first shot as I ran onto the beach, I later realised there's a shooting star too! Part of the annual Lyrids Meteor Shower.
Aurora & the Lyrid Meteor Shower
Lyrids is an annual meteor shower that peaked on 23rd April. So much alignment in nature with the new moon on Thursday bringing the darkest possible sky. This is the strongest night of solar activity in a decade or more. The cherry on top - the meteor shower shimmering through in all of that! If you want to find out more about Lyrids, you can here.
Aurora Borealis in Margate visible to the eye
I couldn't believe how much of the aurora I could see. I turned away from the brightly lit harbour arm of Margate and faced north-west along the main sands. The aurora was filling the whole horizon! It was so clear to the eye, the low cloud bank giving a lot of dark contrast to really lock the eye into the aurora glow with the rays even more visible!
I always move around to start with to get different angles and compositions and ran down the beach a little. Hilariously, as I did, I spooked all the seagulls that were chilling on the beach and they took off. As I started to shoot, with each shot taking 10 seconds to expose, I could see these white squiggles all over the place. I realised the light pollution from the town was hitting them and reflecting off them so they white painted lines as they soared around the sky!! I knew this was going to spoil the shots and with dawn rapidly approaching, I made the decision to move.
Aurora chasing is a dopamine filled adventure!
I jumped back in the car, 'where to, where to' I was looping in my head. I thought about the Lido, it is dark in the car park and you don't have to walk far to get a view of something in the foreground. There is nothing like pressure of time running out to get dopamine firing in my ADHD brain, I think this is how I can power through nights like this because I just find it all so thrilling!
Clearly common sense as a solo female astrophotographer prevails while I am out, and I'm hyper vigilant of my surroundings. Before getting out of the car, I usually do a sweep of the area by running the car lights around. Seeing that everything looked quiet, I excitedly leapt out of the car, set up my tripod, and did a lil' dance while screaming with joy internally as I watched the scene with my own eyes while adjusting the tripod legs!
Aurora verses dawn - a battle of solar energy
I love the aurora because it is a reminder of how connected we are to the sun at the heart of our solar system. The sun's geomagnetic energy causes the aurora in our atmosphere when charge particles from the sun travel across space, excite our gases and they release a photon - light - and all of these photons dance together to create this magickal celestial display. And then of course, light beaming constantly from the sun powering life here on earth, forever ready to scatter across the sky and take away the darkness of night.
I could see dawn rapidly approaching from the east, and decided I was going to shoot in one place for as long as I could. This was so that I could capture the final flourish of the aurora, and create a time-lapse of the final moments of my window to the universe. As first light gently but swiftly moved to overpower it in just 9 minutes, sped up to just 11 seconds to get a sense of the aurora dancing and that twilight glow effortlessly gliding in. It was quite spiritual to witness this transition, this liminal space, so temporary, not a single moment that you can pinpoint but that cyclical flow of light with the beautiful aurora meeting her namesake, dawn!
Welcome a unique fine art print of the aurora borealis in Margate
You can find these unique images in the Print Shop. All sustainably made in the UK's first carbon neutral print lab & 10% of profits going to Marine Conservation Society.
The aurora has deep spiritual meanings in cultures around the world
As you can probably guess, chasing the aurora is a complete life long dedication. It's the connectedness that I feel to our universe by studying it so deeply. Surrendering to nature fully and hoping the clear skies will align with the geomagnetic energy that arrives from the sun. It lets us in to see something so otherworldly. For me it's always a deeply spiritual experience. I like to think about the ancestral wisdom that flows as this energy dances across the sky. How surreal it must have been to see the aurora before anyone could explain what it was, and the deep spiritual meanings that cultures weaved in.
Here are 5 myths and cultural stories from around the world about the aurora borealis:
- Norse mythology associates the aurora borealis with the Bifröst Bridge. This was believed to be the rainbow pathway connecting the world of humans, Midgard, to the world of the gods, Asgard. The term "Bifröst" is believed to mean "shimmering path," which perfectly captures the ethereal beauty of the aurora as it appears to transcend the boundary between earthly and celestial realms.
- According to Finnish mythology, the aurora borealis was referred to as "revontulet," which translates to "fox fires." Myth holds that a magical fox running across the snow-covered fells would create sparks with its tail, producing the dazzling display of the Northern Lights. If you've ever seen an arctic fox, they are so playful! They're like little sprites jumping around through the snow, with so much energy!
- In Native American cultures, the aurora was considered a sign of spirits, which could be those of ancestors or animals. It was believed that these spirits used the lights as a means of communicating with the living. One of the best auroras I ever saw was on the first Mother's Day in 2016 , so poignant after losing my Grandma & Aunt and on the anniversary of my Nan's passing. It really felt like they were there dancing that night. It was a truly healing part of that journey of grief that we move with through life.
- In Chinese culture, the aurora borealis was seen as a symbol of good luck and prosperity. It was believed that the lights represented the dragon, a powerful and auspicious creature. When the aurora is really intense, you can see red with your eye and it's such a powerful experience! Sometimes the shapes you see take on the form of creatures of myth and legend.
- In Japanese culture, the aurora borealis was seen as a symbol of love and romance. It was believed that couples who watched the lights together would be blessed with a happy and long-lasting relationship. This feels so beautiful, as I have had the joyful honour of capturing weddings in Iceland and the aurora visited by night! I love how this brought a blessing to them that night!
I think it is impossible to watch the aurora and not feel a deep spiritual connection and I love learning what it means to people and how it has woven into the fabric of so many cultures around the world.
The aurora borealis is making a monthly visit to Thanet!
Literally a month to the day, I captured my first ever super strong aurora from the north coast of Kent. It was a really different show, with so much red glowing through. To see the Botany Bay Aurora I captured on 24th March, click here.
How can I become an expert aurora borealis chaser?
People often ask me how I know the aurora will be active. For me it is a life long dedication to learning about the aurora and monitoring space & earth weather daily. It's part of how I attune to living in a deeply connected way, as part of nature. It's definitely an obsession! I've distilled all I know about how to see and shoot the aurora on this page here.
It's such a joy to have had the time to go and capture these & share them with you today! I still can't believe I saw aurora in Margate with my eyes!! Thanks so much for stopping by.
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