gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Northern Lights!

It has long been an ambition of mine to see the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, with my own two eyes.
The aftermath of a large solar storm last week is just reaching our small blue and green planet, giving rise to the promise of some spectacular aurora activity, visible even to us here in the north of Ireland.
And for once, these past few nights the sky has been relatively clear of clouds.
I’ve been checking Twitter for updates from all the weather and astronomical authorities, and running upstairs to hang out the attic window looking north with hope in my heart for a sighting.
This is Early September, I naively thought the aurora were only seen in winter time. It’s so exciting!
Tonight Mr G indulged me by driving out of the city, away from the light pollution and up into the dark hills above us. Down a narrow country road we drove, no street lights, no nearby houses, just blackness. We turned off the headlight and got out of the car. It was very, very dark. Gillyboy number 2 came with us and helpfully found north on his iPhone compass, so we all peeled our eyes hoping for a glimpse of green flares, or a red glow, or anything at all. Until we realised that the compass was affected by the magnetic catch on his phone case and we were looking the wrong way.
As our eyes grew accustomed to the blackness, shapes in the field next to us became apparent. We counted one, then two, then four ponies. Then as hill fog rolled creepily towards us, there was the sound of galloping hooves. I almost expected to see the headless horseman hurtling over the hill top. It was just another curious horse, wondering what three townies were doing out in the dark, and looking for a handful of verge grass.
After about ten minutes fruitless sky watching, and remembering Mr G is more than a little allergic to horses, we headed home.
(GB2 pointed out there were quite a few parked cars along the dark country roads. Im not sure the occupants were that interested in catching the Northern Lights, we drove quickly on….)
But the night is young. I’m getting very fit running up the stairs to peek at the horizon every so often. You just never know.
In the meantime here is a photo taken about 70 miles from our coop door last night which was published in our local paper.the Belfast Telegraph Sensational!

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If you live anywhere within the green ring on this image, I hope you managed to catch some of the light show!

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I long to see something like this. It’s from the Visit Finland website. Wow.

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Ground Control to Colonel Chris

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For as long as it has been in the sky, if it is a clear night, if the International Space Station is flying over our small damp corner of the world, we will get a phone call or text from my father, alerting us to the time, position in the sky and duration of its sighting. I love to watch it pass over head like a speeding bright pinprick of light and send good wishes to those living and working on it. The thought of being way up there so far from home, so isolated and confined in the vast silent darkness of space makes me shudder.
The ISS is the biggest object ever flown in space. It travels around the Earth at an average speed of 27,700 km/h, completing 16 orbits per day, 370 km above our heads.
Today it is in the news as the first Canadian to command it, Colonel Chris Hadfield from Ontario, will be returning to earth. He has been up there watching over us since 21st December 2012. Col. Chris has become a twitter sensation tweeting his photos of our blue planet, and we have been very excited that he has picked out our own wee city both by day and night.

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How pretty it all looks from way up there! We live in such a small part of the world it is very special to see it from a new perspective. And amazing that there is so little cloud around!
Col. Chris on his time off has been making and recording music, and as he leaves he has recorded his own version of the David Bowie classic “A Space Oddity”. I would encourage you to watch it if you haven’t already. It is the first music ever recorded in space. Hadfield is aware he has many blind people “following” him and made an effort not just to record music but also other sounds on the ISS so they could share in his experience.

Commander Chris Sings
Col. Chris Hadfield sings
A man to look up to.

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