The mission was plain and simple – To try and get the Comet Neowise and NLCs in the same picture and a once in a lifetime shot literally as the next time the comet visits us will be in the year 8700. After waiting patiently for 5 nights for a clear night after Low Pressure had the UK in Cloud and Rain since the weekend before everything looked set for Friday Night and Saturday Morning of the 10/11th July.
During the week I had extensively scouted out new locations with a North view and found a nice spot on the Dengie Peninsular in Essex which is about 40 minutes away from my house. We left at 1145pm and arrived at the location at 1230am. The Comet was visible with full tail even when we arrived just under the star Capella.
There was so much going on including a stunning Moon Rise in the East around 1am, add into that 2 amazing Persoid Meteors and an ISS pass overhead and this was even before the NLCs started to show. I first started to see the NLCs in the North West Sky viewable only by camera at this stage. But with the Moon rising and lighting up the foreground and the NLCs getting stronger and higher in the Sky the stage was set. I pulled off this first shot around 2am
Success straight away with the Comet and NLCs in the same image but the show was just getting going and some incredible cloud formations in the NLCs were stealing the show.
The display was getting stronger all the time as we neared 3am
The rippling effect was amazing to watch but by now the Comet had moved too far away in the North East Sky to get in the same shot. We got 1 last shot around 330am as the NLCs were dying off and as the tide came in enough to get a nice reflection shot.
Another great night of NLC action in this amazing season for it.
After finally waiting over a week for clear skies an early event started to show itself even when it was still light at 930pm. Straight away it was high up in the sky so knew this would be my chance at the windmill at Mountnessing as the NLCs were also in the North East sky and not north under Capella. I got to the Windmill around 10pm and started to take some pictures, the clouds peaked around 1035pm and were all gone by 11pm tonight. Picture below.
On the night and morning of the 7th and 8th there was one of the best shows of the season but the whole of England was clouded out with only parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland in the clear skies, a chance missed and also a chance at Comet Neowise in the sky as well for a limited time.
Another Visit from the NLCs was looking likely for this day with the AIM Radar looking good for the 26th June. Skies had been cloudy most of the day but around 9pm they cleared and too the north a great display was setting up and quite early as well at 1015pm. I did not really have a lot of time to position so went to the airport viewing point and got some nice pictures of this 90 minute event. Clouds once again rolled in from a frontal system which curtailed any pre dawn event happening which was a shame.
The Outlook going forward is not great for the next few weeks with Low pressure becoming dominant so am not expecting many visible displays until the 2nd week of July.
So the stage was set, all radars were looking good, there was High Tide at Hulbridge at 0215am and hours earlier a strong display had been present before the sun went below the horizon. Would this be the night that I would get the reflections on the water if the NLC rose high enough. On driving to Hullbridge Quay once down country lanes the northern sky looked like the sun had already come up and was ablaze with NLC already. I got down there and set up at 2am, the NLCs were stretched from North West all the way through North East and my 55mm lens would not be big enough for this. There was not a breathe of wind and High Tide was about to peak. Focus was sorted pin sharp and for the next 90 minutes until 320am it was a lovely feeling watching the ripples and waves of the NLCs with just the ducks making a noise on the water. I took over 150 pictures and the best one was the one below.
An amazing event of these beautiful clouds
After the frontal rain had cleared through and light afternoon showers had cleared away we were now in a favourable 5 day High Pressure Pattern and any decent NLC event would be easy to see with crystal clear skies. In the evening I checked the various radars and the Daisy AIM images on Space Weather and things were looking good. Around 1030pm I went into my garden and could see quite a strong event setting up to my North and North West so grabbed the camera and headed to the Airport viewing area again, this time I made sure to nail the focus as the NLCs were getting vivid with waves and ripples and the sunset colours were also spectacular. The event last from 1030 until 1130pm and I was happy with this shot of the Church with NLCs behind.
This was the best event of the year so far and I knew the morning show would be even better so got home recharged the batteries and got ready to head to Hullbridge in the early hours.
On the morning of the 20th of June around 2am at Hullbridge Quay and again in the evening of the 20th this time at the Southern end of Southend Airport weak Noctilucent Displays were observed over South East Essex. Again I really need to sort my focus out on my camera as unfortunately the blurring is occuring in the pictures.
The first sighting of weak NLCs timed with a low tide at Hullbridge so no reflections this time but nice to see none the less, the display lasted for around 90 minutes until 315am
On the evening of the 20th we only had a brief window in the evening due to a frontal system moving in from the west and the morning of the 21st would be clouded out, once again the focus needs to be sharper but a really nice image of St Lawrence Church in Eastwood with the NLCs behind and above.
The Uk was pretty much in the middle of 6 days of a favourable pattern for Severe Storms with a Trough Parked out towards the Western English Channel and moisture being pumped up from the South with SE Flow persisting from Saturday 13th until Friday 19th June. After the first 3 days of this event with probably upto 20 Funnel Clouds and Tornadoes being reported across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales it was becoming clear that my little part of the world namely SE Essex was not going to get even 1 drop of rain from these Storms so drastic action was taken and I focused on this day to chase some storms around Western East Anglia and the East Midlands.
Most of the storms this week had been initiated from Convergence Zones from Sea Breezes or Orographic Lift, and some of the hillier areas benefiting from these SE winds were the South & North Downs, The Chilterns, The Cotswolds, Penines and Peak District along with Snowdonia and the Southern Uplands of Scotland.
Morning Models were painting a decent picture of a CZ line by around 4pm along the A14 area from Cambridge to Kettering and up towards Leicester and Nottingham so I drove to Northants and watched small popcorn storms initiate and die within 30 minutes for most of the day.
Around 530pm the Storm above got its act together near St Neots and was throwing out quite a lot of clear and visible Cg Lightning Bolts, the structure was also pulling together See Below
But ultimately the Storms never really got to severe levels and I broke off the chase around 730pm with the drive home to SE Essex in front of me.
The week did feauture a couple of Supercells in amongst the hundreds of pop up storms but when you are dealing with 500-700jkg of Cape each day finding that one diamond is scarce to almost impossible unless you luck out. Was great to finally hear thunder again though.
The morning of the 16th June skies cleared just about enough in a 2 hour window between 1-3am for the NLCs to become visible in a weak event, due to quickness I once again went to Hullbridge Quay along the River Crouch and this time the tide was out but thankfully still got some water shadows due to light winds. The evnt was over before 3am today but 3rd sighting this year already.
After missing an incredible display on the morning of Saturday 6th I made sure to keep awake for another chance of the NLC Clouds due to reports coming in from Mainland Europe and clear skies over SE Essex. I headed to Hullbridge which is only 5 miles from my house and went to the Quay Edge along the River Crouch and with the tide in set up my cameras hoping to get some reflections of the NLC Clouds if they appeared. Around 220am the first tell tale silver ribbons were starting to become visible to the North and North East. I shot the following pictures between 230am and 310am. Not as good an event as the day before but my 2nd ever NLC Event of the year so happy with that.
Well its been a while since I posted a blog post. Since last August in Arizona in fact and so much has changed in that time from CoronaVirus wiping out our Storm Chasing Season to Civil War now erupting in the USA.
I have been trying to keep myself busy over the past 3 months of being at home, have ventured out to take pictures of the Red Arrows, A couple of Spitfires and some nature shots. Recently with the warm weather was hoping for some Thunderstorms in the Uk but alas its been abysmal here as well luckily in the USA with one of the slowest Tornado Seasons on Record which is a slight comfort. I also seem to have a Pet Fox who visits every night and is even eating from my outstretched hand.
Thoughts are now turning to NLC (Noctilucent Clouds) as the season started the last few days of May and runs until the start of August. These clouds are 80km up in the Mesosphere and much like the Aurora these are very hard to predict. We do have some NASA Satelites including the AIM/DAISY programme which sends back images unfortunately these are 2 days old by the time they come back to us mortals on Planet Earth. I have tried to work out a theory from those images as to when they might be visible in Europe and had some success so far with predictions for 25/26th May and 30/31st coming true. The NLC’s are viewable over these 2 months from latitudes from 50N to 60N. Which luckily includes all of the Uk with Cornwall at 50N and Northern Scotland at 60N.
So on the evening of Saturday 30th May and the morning of Sunday 31st May I ventured with some of the other storm chase regulars upto the North Norfolk Coast. We started in Burham Overy Staithe but felt the views there we not as good as first thought so headed east to Morston Quay and watched the sun set. We then sat and waited and waited and waited…….. Then at about 1130pm another Astro Photographer shouted to us that he was picking up some small traces of the NLC on his camera to the North. It was now game on and hopefully the NLC display would get stronger as we went into the early hours. The first picture I got on the camera was at 0015am.
We continued to shoot as the event ramped up even more and now we could even see the NLC’s dancing with our own eyes. The first display which started in the North was moving to the North West and waning but another area much higher up in the sky was really becoming visible to the North North East.
This was really outperforming expectations now and seeing as these are usually only visible from June and July we were being treated to one hell of a show.
Jonathan who was with me had a much larger lens and zoomed in on the ripple effect in the clouds and you can see his picture below – A Stunning Shot.
Knowing I had a 2 hour 45 minute drive to get home due to Coronavirus lockdown rules still in the Uk I begrudgingly departed at 240am and got back home at 515am with birds singing their heads off.
Conclusion this is not for the feint hearted and if you like your sleep definately not for you but we had a blast and got some amazing pictures and if asked to do it again I would jump at the chance. I am now in the process of scouting out other locations as the season ramps up proper during June and July so expect to see some more events hopefully soon.