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Northern lights over Cambridgeshire: Lifetime first for astrophotographer as he captures aurora on camera

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Astrophotographer Paul Haworth was delighted to capture a glimpse of the aurora from Cambridgeshire for the first time in his life - and witnessed the spectacle again a few nights later.

A coronal mass ejection from the Sun last Tuesday arrived at Earth a day or so later. Its interaction with the Earth's magnetic field causes the ‘Northern lights’. As it was particularly strong, these could be seen much further south than usual last week.

Aurora red arc over Swavesey lake. Picture: Paul Haworth (52925794)
Aurora red arc over Swavesey lake. Picture: Paul Haworth (52925794)

Paul was able to capture the red auroral arc, and a tinge of green, with his camera in Swavesey.

He said: “The aurora is notoriously challenging to predict. Fluctuations in the solar wind - a stream of charged particles from the Sun - caused by disturbances on the sun’s surface can twist and distort the Earth’s magnetic field, kicking off the process that causes the Northern lights.

“A number of satellites monitor that solar wind. I noticed during the evening that the data from those satellites suggested massive disturbances in the magnetic field and just as I was about to head to bed I heard a report that aurora was showing clearly on the north Norfolk coast.

“So I headed straight out to my local dark spot with a clear northern horizon, got the camera set up and started shooting away. Most digital cameras are a lot more sensitive than the human eye, and immediately I could tell the camera was picking up the red auroral arc and some faint green above it.

Aurora red arc over Swavesey lake. Picture: Paul Haworth
Aurora red arc over Swavesey lake. Picture: Paul Haworth

“Amazingly, having never seen it in my life, this was the second time in four nights that I’d captured it from Cambridgeshire. I was elated.

“People usually associate the aurora with northern Scotland, Canada or Scandinavia – not usually this part of the Fens. So it was a thrill to pick it up on camera, and as the Sun increases in activity during this phase of its 11-year cycle, I’m looking forward to some more displays – hopefully some visible with the naked eye – over the coming couple of years.”

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