March 26th 2008, Gatwick

The pre-flight presentations were held at the Gatwick Hilton Hotel adjacent to Gatwick Airport. Nigel Bradbury provided a 30 minute talk on the stars and constellations that would be visible during the flight whilst Pete Lawrence explained the connections between the Sun and the Aurora.

The activity predictions for tonight were reasonable at around 4/10. The vertical component of the interplanetary magnetic field, known as Bz was south on this evening, which was ideal for an auroral display. If Bz points south, the IMF and Earth's magnetic field can connect and auroral displays are likely to occur. If Bz is north, the fields oppose one another and the aurora is quiet.

Almost once the cabin was placed into darkness it was apparent there was a bright display underway with plenty of detail and the passengers were not disappointed. During the flight Nigel Bradbury and Pete Lawrence provided an enthusiastic commentary on the stars, constellations and auroral activity visible outside the plane windows while aurora expert and solar physicist Dr Lucie Green wandered down the aisle assisting passengers and answering any questions. Pete also attempted to photograph the aurora and some these images are shown below.

On this occasion, the aurora was fairly bright but not as structurally active as it had been the night before. Some rays and bright pulses were seen. During the journey home, the auroral oval extended around the back of the plane so that, from the right hand side at least, the arch was extremely noticable even against the plane's bright wing-tip lights.


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence


Image: Pete Lawrence