James Lowen 

Unimpressive, huh? As it was when I arrived at Happisburgh. I was still in the 'red alert' zone, but could see only the barest glimpse of something purple. After a couple of hours, levels were back down to 'no aurora likely', so I departed. My eyes had dipped. My camera, however... hadn't quite. Processing images two days later, I found that they had indeed caught the reds and greens of an aurora. For the avoidance of doubt, my photos are only marginally processed. Typically, all I have done is run the RAW file through DxO Pure to remove the grain, then boost the exposure by three stops (having taken the original image at 1 or 2 stops down), open up the shadows on the foreground (to allow a bit of detail in), and perhaps add a couple of points of contrast. I have not touched vibrance or saturation - unlike many photographers I suspect (whose images will thus appear far superior to mine!). 

As dusk was falling, I was surprised to receive another aurora red alert. I hadn't realised that the cherry might have a second bite in it. as it transpired, Sunday night was predicted to be much better than Saturday night. Indeed, as this retrospective screenshot from the Aurorawatch app shows, Sunday's maximum solar-disturbance levels were more than three times higher than those of Saturday. 

Having spent Saturday afternoon - prior to the aurora attempt - birding Winterton and Horsey with Stuart White (we aspired to rare wheatears and swifts, but found only five Swallows and a Little Gull), I headed north to Warham Greens on Sunday afternoon to enjoy James McCallum's Red-breasted Goose and Mike Buckland's Pallid Harrier (amazingly, last year's juvenile returning as a second calendar-year female). The former was lovely but distant, but the latter showed well as it flew in high onto the marsh north of Garden Drove. Given that I contrived to dip the harrier several times last winter, this was an unexpected 'grip back'.


9 November 2023 Norfolk aurora

On Saturday night we were watching a family film at home ('Barbie', should you wish to know) when my 'red alert' went off for a UK aurora. A quick check of Twitter revealed photos from north Norfolk. I selfishly abandoned Dollwatch and drove to the nearest bit of dark coast, at Happisburgh, in north-east Norfolk. This was the same site I chose for a recent aurora event in Norfolk, when I saw nothing but my camera picked up a bit of pink that was deemed by experts to be evidence of an aurora. Here's that photo, by way of benchmark. 

As the sky darkened, the cloud thickened and so it became a little tricky to see what was going on. For an hour or so, I could see not much more than hints of red and green through breaks in the cloud. Staying put was wise, however. It became apparent that there were colours in the sky as well as an odd cylindrical stripe that, thanks to Graham Etherington, I now know is 'Steve' - a phenomenon that is not part of the aurora, but only ever seen in tandem with it. Eventually I realised that the odd white half-halo of 'cloud' above me was actually the sub-auroral arc directly overhead. As I watched the sky started dancing, with columns and parallel Zebra stripes of white drifting across the sky. For a change, it was far better with the naked eye than on the camera, so I lay back and gawped. But even this magical experience could not prepare me for what my DLSR produced when I downloaded the photos today. 

This was more the sufficient for me to delay my journey home and head east to Salthouse, where I hoped to sit on the shingle and watch the aurora. Upon arrival, I could detect a gentle hue of magenta, but my phone camera was much more positive. And the DLSR (not that I knew it at the time) even more so, as this photo shows.

The straight white line above - which flummoxed me at the time - transpires to be the Starlight satellites in motion (thanks to the various friends who talked me down from feared hallucination).

While, for the observer, this was nothing like as exciting at the aurora I watched at Varanger, Arctic Norway, in March 2015 (for which see a photo below, and imagine the green doing a jig), it was certainly exciting - and the photos have leave me gasping. A great day... and night.

... back west towards Cley...

... and overhead.

Now looking east towards the lights of Sheringham.