March 4th 2008, Bristol Airport

Pre-flight presentations were held at the media centre in the old terminal of Bristol Airport. Paul Money provided a 30 minute talk on the stars and constellations that would be visible during the flight while Pete Lawrence described the origin of the aurora and gave a forecast for the activity that might be seen during the flight.

At this time there was plenty of activity coming from the Sun to produce an aurora but it was noted that the vertical component of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), Bz, was fluctuating from north polarity to south polarity and back again with some rapidity. If Bz is south, the IMF and Earth's magnetic field can connect to produce auroral displays. If north, the fields oppose one another and the aurora is quiet.

For the majority of the flight the northern horizon remained stubbornly auroraless. Fortunately our flight crew decided to take us a little further north than we would normally go (62 degrees) which meant that in the face of a no-show, passengers were able to see a weak display on the horizon. A few photographs were taken which are shown below. The major component of this particular display was recorded as a red band above a brighter green strip. The red component wasn't visible to the naked eye.