January 30th 2009, Exeter

The pre-flight presentations were held in the departure lounge of Exeter Airport. Paul Money provided a 30 minute talk on the stars and constellations that would be visible during the flight while Pete Lawrence explained the connection between the Sun and the Aurora.

The activity predictions for tonight were indifferent and a forecast of 50:50 was given. However, it was felt that we might get lucky and pick up a bit of a display from the leading edge of a cloud of charged particles heading from the Sun, predicted to make contact with Earth on the 31st.

The vertical component of the interplanetary magnetic field, known as Bz was strongly north during the early part of the day but was seen to be falling rapidly and hopefully swing to the south during the flight. 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.

During the flight Nigel Bradbury and Pete Lawrence provided an enthusiastic commentary on the stars and constellations while Paul Money wandered down the cabin giving assistance where needed. The plane used for the flight was an Embraer 195 which usefully has relatively large windows and only two seats either side of the aisle.

The flight deck were extremely helpful on this flight, managing to negotiate a more northerly trip than we would normally have taken. This took us briefly into Icelandic airspace and allowing us to get closer to the auroral oval on our aurora chase.

Our predictions were spot on this during this flight and the aurora was visible, showing lots of tantalising brightenings and strutures.

As we had flown further north than originally planned, our time on station had to be reduced (it's always good to have enough fuel to get home!) but the view was certainly enhanced by our proximity to the display. As we headed home the aurora remained behind us seemingly getting even more active.

Pete attempted to photograph the aurora and some of the results are shown below.

Our thanks go to the Exeter Airport staff, Embraer crew and flight deck who did everything possible to make the experience very special.

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: EXE6132 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: EXE6133 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: EXE6138 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: EXE6158 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.