November 26th 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.

Pete had given a 50/50 chance of viewing the aurora for this flight. Assessing the potential for the display can be difficult due to the widely fluctuating orientation of the interplanetary magnetic field. The vertical component of the interplanetary magnetic field is known as Bz and 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. Bz was fluctuating between north and south on this occasion with long periods at each value. This made final predictions difficult hence the forecast. Even so, expectations were reasonable due to a fast and energetic enhancement to the solar wind due to a large coronal hole on the Sun.

As we headed north the cabin was plunged into darkness and as our eyes started to dark adapt, so the beauty of the early winter night sky began to reveal itself to us. As we approached station, Pete Lawrence took a number of test shots which revealed a distinctive green band topped with a reddish glow. On station the aurora appeared fairly bright and showed a reasonable amount of structure. On this occasion, the captain had been instructed to start the race-track viewing course early to give us as long as possible to view the aurora. After two fairly long tracks the decision was made to fly around 70miles further north and carry out a further two tracks closer to the auroral oval.

As it happened, the aurora became less active for the second, further north viewing position indicating that our original gamble had paid off. If we had have flown further north initially, the chances are that we would have missed most of the structural display. During the flight Pete Lawrence and Nigel Bradbury provided an enthusiastic commentary on the stars, constellations and auroral activity visible outside the plane windows while Paul Money roamed down the plane to check on passengers and provide help where needed. Pete also attempted to photograph the aurora and the best images are shown below. Exposure times were in the order of 20s which, coupled with the fact that the camera had to be hand-held against the cabin window, explains the slight distortions visible in the stars.

Please feel free to download and use the images for any purpose you like as long as it's of a non-commercial nature. If you would like to purchase a souvenir 12"x8" photographic print of any of these photographs, please click on the link provided. Secure payment is made via PayPal but you don't need a PayPal account to purchase, just a credit or debit card. Delays may occur if you order during a busy flight sequence so please allow up to 28-days for delivery.


Image ref: BRISTOL4169 by Pete Lawrence
You may download this image for any non-commercial purpose. If you'd like a 12"x8" photographic print of it (7.00+ p&p) please click the button below.



Image ref: BRISTOL4170 by Pete Lawrence
You may download this image for any non-commercial purpose. If you'd like a 12"x8" photographic print of it (7.00+ p&p) please click the button below.



Image ref: BRISTOL4171 by Pete Lawrence
You may download this image for any non-commercial purpose. If you'd like a 12"x8" photographic print of it (7.00+ p&p) please click the button below.



Image ref: BRISTOL4199 by Pete Lawrence
You may download this image for any non-commercial purpose. If you'd like a 12"x8" photographic print of it (7.00+ p&p) please click the button below.



Image ref: BRISTOL4200 by Pete Lawrence
You may download this image for any non-commercial purpose. If you'd like a 12"x8" photographic print of it (7.00+ p&p) please click the button below.



Image ref: BRISTOL4202 by Pete Lawrence
You may download this image for any non-commercial purpose. If you'd like a 12"x8" photographic print of it (7.00+ p&p) please click the button below.



Image ref: BRISTOL4206 by Pete Lawrence
You may download this image for any non-commercial purpose. If you'd like a 12"x8" photographic print of it (7.00+ p&p) please click the button below.



Image ref: BRISTOL4208 by Pete Lawrence
You may download this image for any non-commercial purpose. If you'd like a 12"x8" photographic print of it (7.00+ p&p) please click the button below.



Image ref: BRISTOL4216 by Pete Lawrence
You may download this image for any non-commercial purpose. If you'd like a 12"x8" photographic print of it (7.00+ p&p) please click the button below.