February 25th 2011, Gatwick Airport

The pre-flight presentations for tonight's flight were held in the Gatwick Hilton Hotel at Gatwick Airport.

After an introduction from Omega's Peter Truman, Nigel Bradbury proceeded in giving a presentation on the stars and constellations which would be visible during the flight. This was then followed by Pete Lawrence who gave a talk on the Northern Lights themselves.

A forecast was given at the end of Pete's talk. After quite a run of some quite active space weather, the conditions which trigger the aurora had subsided somewhat. There was some hope that the output from a couple of large coronal holes in the Sun's corona would cause an enhanced display this evening. Various estimates as to when this material would reach us had been changing over the last few days with the first estimate of 23rd Feb being pushed back to 24th/25th Feb. We were hopeful that material this would arrive in time for us tonight.

As we flew closer to the auroral oval in a superbly dark cabin, it was clear that there was a glow on the horizon. This showed the characteristic sharp lower edge caused by the silhoutetted edge of the Earth against the glow. After a chat with the flight deck, a decision was made to try for a location further north and therefore closer to the oval. There was some weak activity seen, mostly as a brightening layer under the main band, but the display didn't really get going to any great extent.

Looking at the activity plots for Feb 25th into Feb 26th it turns out that we got the best of this nights display while we were on station. The POES aurora monitoring satellite showed a brief pick up in activity to 6/10 (which corresponded with a brief bright patch seen from the plane) before dropping back to very weak levels. The rest of the night it remained in the 1-3/10 range.

Pete and Nigel gave a running commentary throughout the flight on what stars, constellations and planets could be seen outside the aircraft and as usual, these were quite stunning, especially the region around Orion the Hunter.

Paul Money and Denise Pritchard were the roving astronomers on tonight's flight, helping passengers as they wandered down the aircraft.

Pete and Paul tried to get some photographs of the aurora and the best of these are shown below. Please note that the extreme light levels and high sensitivity of the camera required to take these shots means that sometimes ordered prints may vary in appearance slightly to that seen on a computer monitor.


Image ref: S11_LGW_20110225_6402 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_LGW_20110225_6424 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_LGW_20110225_6430 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_LGW_20110225_6432 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_LGW_20110225_6435 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_LGW_20110225_6467 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_LGW_20110225_6489 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_LGW_20110225_6503 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.