February 3rd 2011, Bristol Airport

This was a special flight organised by pilot Pam McCoy to raise money for the Help for Heroes Charity. Many elements of this flight were donated without charge and unconfirmed totals for the sum raised are currently estimated to be in excess of 20,000.

The pre-flight presentations were held at the Media Centre, Bristol 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 difficult to assess accurately. There was plenty of activity coming from the Sun but the solar wind speed and density of charged particles close to the Earth was unfavourable early on. There was also uncertainty about the vertical component (Bz) of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). If Bz points north the aurora tends to be quiet. If Bz points south, the IMF and Earth's magnetic field can connect and more impressive auroral displays are likely to be seen. This evening Bz was indeterminate and difficult to predict.

During the flight, the stars looked beautifully crisp and clear. 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 and Denise Pritchard acted as the onboard astronomical rovers on this occasion, assisting any passengers who weren't sure what was being described.

After an initially rather quiet start, the aurora did start to brighten and show hints of structure. However, this turned out to be short lived and despite the best efforts of Pam to take us as far up as 62 degrees north, the display was rather subdued.

Pete and Paul attempted to photograph the aurora and a number of the images taken on the Bristol flight are shown below.

Click here for an animated auroral display sequence from the Bristol flight (4.5Mb)


Image ref: S11_BRS_20110203_4289 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.




Image ref: S11_BRS_20110203_4302 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.




Image ref: S11_BRS_20110203_4336 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.




Image ref: S11_BRS_20110203_4350 by Pete Lawrence