The world stopped and stared when the Northern Lights descended as far as Donegal’s north coast in January. Rarely are they spotted so far south and local Inishowen photographers were out in force to capture it.
Now for the science bit: The Aurora Borealis occurs when ionised particles from the sun hit the Earth’s atmosphere and react with gases, in this case oxygen, which gives the red and green colours. It normally is seen over northern Norway and Sweden but in recent years it has crept further south to illuminate Ireland.
And now for the first-hand accounts from the local photographers who were there to see it:
Martina Gardiner: Aurora chaser extraordinaire
Photographer Martina Gardiner became fascinated with the Aurora Borealis last March when she realised it could be seen from Ireland and “since then I’ve had an interest in finding out more and eventually photographing it.” And that she did. Come January 2012 Martina was informed by local astronomy enthusiast Brendan Alexander, the weather forecast and @aurora_alerts that the time had come.
Both of her photos (one below and the other is our lovely header image) were taken on Ballyliffen Strand, Inishowen on Sunday night, 22nd Jan 2012.
I left my home under complete cloud cover on Sunday evening armed with camera and tripod and hoping for clear skies. Then, we could see the stars appearing from the east and by the time we had our cameras organised we could see a brightness in the sky to the North. Before long I began taking photos and knew that this was something special. It really has been a fantastic week chasing the Northern Lights and its exciting to think that there’s plenty more to come.
Bren Whelan captures the Lights
Bren Whelan was another witness to this natural phenomenon as he stood on Pollen Beach, Inishowen. His photo was taken on 23rd Jan at about 1am and required a 20 minute exposure on the camera. Bren was looking at the view out over the sea towards the lights of Malin Town and Malin Head, also visible in the frame is Glashedy Island, which is located about a mile off shore.
The name ‘Glashedy’ translates to ‘The Island of the Green Cloak’, a name which suited this special January night as Inishowen lay beneath one of nature’s most beautiful solar cloaks, the Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights, a spectacular and rare event in this beautiful corner of Ireland, lay an emerald green aerial siege to Ireland’s most northerly town (Malin) and bombarded its sleepy landscape with beams of energised natural beauty whilst residents slept soundly underneath mother nature’s warm and glorious embrace.
Kathleen Gill from VisitInishowen says:
It’s been an exciting couple of weeks in Inishowen since the first sighting of the Northern Lights off Pollan Bay in Ballyliffin. We have some excellent local photographers who captured this natural phenomenon on film and uploaded on to the internet which resulted in it getting picked up by national newspapers on the 22nd January.
Inishowen is the most northerly point of Ireland and therefore ideal to gaze at this natural wonder. This isn’t the last of them either, according to Kathleen. Astronomy Ireland have predicted that the Northern Lights will be visible well into March and will occur for the next three years during the winter/spring period.
Of course we can’t ignore that particularly green hue over Ireland, can we?
For the next star-gazing expedition to Inishowen, admire the scenery on the trace some ancestors at the , play a few rounds at the or get your walking boots on for.