As the most northerly point in Ireland, Malin Head in Inishowen is undoubtedly the best place on the island to witness the astonomical phenomenon of Aurora Borealis. Due to the low light pollution, also Dunree
, Mamore Gap
and Ballyliffin are prime locations in which to get the perfect photograph. However, other locations in the north of the County, with little light pollution, like Fanad Peninsula
are also ideal to watch the skies.
What are Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights are the result of electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth's atmosphere. The skies above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres are where they can be seen. In the northern hemisphere they are known as 'Aurora Borealis' and 'Aurora Australis' in the southern hemisphere.
Gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere collide with electrically charged particles released from the sun's atmosphere. The different colours that can be seen depend on the type of gas particles that are colliding. The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.
Things to look out for
There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of seeing them. First of all look at the weather forecast for where you are planning to go to and if you have clear skies with no rain or bright moon light your chances are better. Next thing to check is the Kp readings. The Kp number is a system of measuring Aurora strength. It goes from 0 to 9 (0 being very weak, 9 being a major geomagnetic storm with strong auroras visible), as well as real time Bz. Bz is the solar wind's magnetic orientation in the up/down direction. Although Aurora Borealis can happen with a positive Bz, a negative Bz is generally better. A negative Bz helps the solar wind grab the Earth's magnetic field which can more easily lead to an Aurora.
Northern Lights Photography / Tours
There are a number of providers in Donegal offering Northern Lights photography tours. You can find interesting information about Northern Lights, camera equipment and the weather forecast tips on their individual websites. You can also get in touch with these providers directly if you have any specific questions.
Adam Rory Porter - The Northern Light Gallery & Studio
Buncrana, Inishowen, Co. Donegal
Linsfort Church, Co. Donegal. Image © Adam Rory Porter
Brendan Diver - Photos from Ireland
Photography Workshops and Tours - Ballyliffin, Inishowen, Co. Donegal
Ballyliffin, Co. Donegal. Image © Brendan Diver
Aurora Borealis in Donegal. Image © Bren Whelan
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