February 16th 2010, East Midlands Airport

The pre-flight presentations were held in the departure lounge within East Midlands Airport. Nigel Bradbury provided a 30 minute talk on the stars and constellations that would be visible during the flight. Pete Lawrence, then followed on to explain the connection between the Sun and the Aurora.

The activity predictions for tonight were interesting. Last night we had an auroral storm and, to be honest, it was difficult to believe anything could top it. The material coming from the Sun that had given us such an amazing view from the Bristol flight on the 15th, was waning but a further enhancement had been predicted. The timing of the arrival of this secondary enhancement was difficult to predict but all fingers were crossed.

The vertical component of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), known as Bz, was looking promising just before the flight. If Bz points north the aurora tends to be quiet while if Bz points south, the IMF and Earth's magnetic field can connect and more impressive auroral displays are likely to be seen.

As usual, the stars looked beautifully crisp and clear and during the flight. Nigel Bradbury and Pete Lawrence provided an enthusiastic commentary on what could be seen in terms of the stars, constellations and auroral activity outside the plane. Paul Money acted as the onboard astronomical rover on this occasion, assisting any passengers who weren't sure what was being described.

As we approached station, it was obvious that activity had once again picked up and that we were in for another very bright display. The flight deck reported back that the aurora could be seen very early on and indeed, just like last night it became so expansive that both sides of the aircraft could see it during the northern leg of the flight.

The views of activity outside were stunning and fully equal to a good ground based display. This was one of the brightest auroral displays we have seen over the course of many years and certainly on par with last night's show. The scale, detail and motion of the aurora on this flight were incredible.

As the flight progressed, the activity, if anything, intensified and a definite pink colouration could be seen visually at the base of the main auroral curtains. At the height of the display the aurora demonstrated just how fast it could move with pulses of light spreading from the west to the east in a breathtaking display. Pete and Paul attempted to photograph the aurora and a number of the images taken on the East Midlands flight are shown below.


Image ref: S10_9748 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9756 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9765 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9778 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9780 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9781 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9783 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9796 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9805 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9810 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9811 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9814 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9816 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9818 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9819 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9823 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9825 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9827 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9864 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9872 by Pete Lawrence
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Image ref: S10_9897 by Pete Lawrence
You may download (right click and save as) 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.
Please allow up to 28 days for delivery.