If you are a lover of aurora hunting, the aurora borealis that graced us on Mother's Day on Sunday 6th March are ones that everyone remembers vividly and talks about still. A special set of circumstances came about which meant the display was one of the most powerful ones this year and is only likely to occur around 200 times every 11 years.
As we ate our meal in the Icelandair Hotel in Vik, I was watching the apps I use and they were forecasting a KP6, while we were waiting for coffee (as we were expecting a long night!) the gauges started to go crazy and a KP7-8 was forecast within the next hour. If you're wondering what I'm talking about with mention of KP, these are a guide about how strong the aurora might be across a time period. I have written a definitive post about seeing and photographing the aurora and share more about the most accurate realtime aurora app and you can read it by clicking here.
I kept repeating 'I can't believe we're here for this and near clear skies' as we hurriedly grabbed our gear and dashed to the car. As we drove out of Vik and left the gentle glow of streetlights behind, twilight enveloped us and I shrieked 'OH MY IT'S EVERYWHERE' and we could already see green and pinks dancing.
We kept driving wanting to find some good foreground, getting some space away from light pollution and waiting for true darkness. But we couldn't find anything so stopped in an in-let at the side of the road in to a field.
Nothing could have prepared us for what we were about to witness. The sky was full of vivid dancing aurora in every directly, you could see pinks and blue/purples as well as green. As the intensity of the display grew, they became so bright, I never thought you'd be able to see them with your eye just like the look in photographs.
Dimmer displays are sometimes easy to miss with the eye but the camera makes them look so much more vivid with its ability to outstrip the eye's light sensing capabilities. At one point it felt like it was descending down to wrap around us and I shot straight into the corona and these images just look insane!
We were beside a quiet piece of road and so the rare passing car gave some interesting lens flare in a few images! After about an hour, I realised that we were starting to battle low level cloud rolling in and decided to move further east. We drove for about another 30 minutes but were not getting past the cloud so took a few more shots and enjoyed the colours - I really love these ones as they are so gentle and the cloud adds a pretty layer of opacity!
Then it was time to head back to Vik. When we got back to our hotel, the skies were completely covered in cloud and so we had a Einstock to celebrate what we had just witnessed and retired to dream of this unforgettable evening.
I always feel a deep spiritual connection to aurora and I've never seen the more rare red aurora shine through like this and it felt particularly poignant on Mother's Day. This was my first Mother's Day without two mothers in our family, we lost my grandmother and three weeks later my aunt, her daughter passed away too. Red was their favourite colour. And so to see the rare red aurora shine through on Mother's Day really felt like they were there looking down on us from the gorgeous skies. Then to have the aurora paint a heart shape in the sky really did make it feel like Mother Nature and all of the mothers with their ancestral wisdom were shining down on us that night.
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