November 28th 2008, Gatwick Airport

Pre-flight presentations were held at the Sofitel Hotel, North Terminal, Gatwick Airport. Nigel Bradbury 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 had been observed to be north for much of the day but just prior to check-in it had swung south.

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 little in the way of aurora activity. A faint pinkish glow was picked up by the camera, something indicative of a weak display.

It was necessary to fly as far north as possible to get a view of this weak display and this unfortunately cut into our on time station - a necessity forced on us by the amount of fuel available on board the plane.

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. A number of city shots were also taken and these too are presented below.

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: GAT4231 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: GAT4261 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: GAT4301 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: GAT4313 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: GAT4321 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.