View Full Version : Northern lights

tony draper
9th Nov 2001, 21:34
A Canadian friend reports the
Aurora Borealis to be very active at the moment and visible pretty far south, any body from the North of Scotland or you Pilot chappies up a height, seen any thing of it??.
Years since I've seen it, used to watch it all night up in the Hudson Bay. ;)

9th Nov 2001, 22:03
Dear Mr. Draper, Last Wednesday I departed KOKC (Oklahoma City) non-stop to EGGW (London Luton). We were routed quite a bit farther north than usual and had an unbelievable view of the northern lights, absolutely beautiful.

The view from the cockpit was fantastic. I had the flight attendant go back and inform the passengers. They turned off all the cabin lights so they could enjoy the view. Lasted about an hour and a half.

henry crun
10th Nov 2001, 01:11
Witnessed a man made aurora once.

Back in the mid sixties or thereabouts the US let off an atomic bomb way up in the ionosphere.
This produced a spectacular aurora just like the real thing, a north/south orientated mass of multi coloured shimmering light.

Interesting also that a photo taken from a satellite recently has revealed what the scientists have long suspected.
The aurora borealis and aurora australis are mirror images of each other.

[ 09 November 2001: Message edited by: henry crun ]

[ 09 November 2001: Message edited by: henry crun ]

tony draper
10th Nov 2001, 01:24
Wow Mr C,Draper witnessed one of them shots, the Rainbow bomb I think it was called, we were a few hundred miles from the test area but we saw the sky light up.
Boy, the military knew how to have fun in those days, none of these PC underground Nuke tests with just a bit of dust raised off the floor of the desert,no Sir, Kaboom!!. ;)

[ 09 November 2001: Message edited by: tony draper ]

10th Nov 2001, 04:31
Mr Draper - I saw them a couple of years ago on a nightstop in Iceland.
I was exhausted at the time but couldn't drag myself away from the hotel window, and ended up with only a couple of hours sleep. :cool:

10th Nov 2001, 04:52
Saw them faintly a few times over the summer nightmailing out of EDI, but too faint to be up to much...

But at least it was a nice, harmless natural phenomenon to add to St. Elmo's fire, volcanic eruption, earthquake, and hurricane in my "I Spy Natural Phenomena" book!

10th Nov 2001, 07:44
It was phenomenal, and I viewed it very well from the small city that I live in, so for those that live in the country - it must have been even more brilliant. :cool:

There was a great deal of red, with a little of the blues and greens visible down here on the ground. Sadly, the next night we had rain, I was hoping for a repeat. :(

10th Nov 2001, 08:01
I've seen them on and off for the past couple weeks when flying in and out of Thunder Bay. Not too spectacular, just white mainly but still nice!

10th Nov 2001, 10:17
The Aurora is one of nature's most spectacular shows on a good night. One August night, many years ago, I watched a spectacular display from Goose Bay. It covered almost the whole sky and was made up of numerous colours, and movements like lace curtains in a breeze.

Those of us who have the privilege (?) of night flights across the North Atlantic generally get to see a good number of these displays, especially in summer. For those interested, The Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, provides a free site for Aurora sighting predictions.

I hope it adds to someone's enjoyment!

compressor stall
10th Nov 2001, 12:12
Yes the solar cycle is just waning after another peak which occurs every 11 years.

Seen them numerous times, in Scandinavia and also in Victoria, Australia. The most memorable time was from a remote desolate fjord camped beside the pack ice in Qeterneternvit in Greenland. Just a small display of curtain formation, but the view was incredible. Behind icebergs stuck fast in the fjord, and snowcapped mountains rising up into the heavens was a green shimmering curtain. Hauntingly it billowed, so slowly that it was almost imperceptible. My dinner of seal meat and gravy was still sitting heavy in my stomach, but that did not matter.

Inuits of the area indicated that the Aurora are the spirits of unborn children playing in the heavens. Standing there in the cold beside my tent, I could almost hear the cackles and laughs of the children.

Tricky Woo
12th Nov 2001, 12:26
Apart from an occasional peak from an aeroplane window, not much to add to this aurora stories, so I thought I'd digress for a change:

A small Tricky Woo managed to sleep through the entirity of the 1968 earthquake that made a bit of a mess of Lisbon, Portugal. Mother Woo was somewhat bemused by all this, seeing as the bed that she and I were lying on was being thrown from one side of the room to the other, occasionally banging against a wall or two.

Woke up to a heck of a mess, I can tell you.

Since then, I've made a concerted effort to add to my slumbering prowess by kipping through a number of natural phenomena.

While nothing is likely to top the Lisbon earthquake, I did manage to sleep through a Hurricane in Fiji a few years ago, while everyone else lay awake quivering.

Good sleepers, the Woo family.


12th Nov 2001, 12:55
Whaddya mean, beautiful? They mean you'll be freezing your... erm... NOSE off the next day!

Actually, a few years out of the subarctics, I'm beginning to see what all the fuzz is about. :)


Dave Hedgehog
13th Nov 2001, 00:35
I thought the Northern Lights were the ones formerly found in Roker park, Sunderland... :confused:

13th Nov 2001, 15:40
TPH can also remember seeing the northern lights from the top bit of Sweden, it was also snowing at the time, tiny flakes that were only a couple of millimeteres across, it was like being in one of those ornaments that you shake, an unbelieveable sight!.

Off topic a bit, I also saw a meteorite shower from Mosport park in Canada once, a group of us just laying on our backs and watching the night sky, (we woz laying on our backs coz we wuz very very drunk, and laying down sort of cut out the middle bit, you know, falling over like)

14th Nov 2001, 09:22
Compressor stall..

what you said about the stars re children really touched me.
My son was stillborn in 99, and when ever I look up at the stars, I like to think that one of them is shining just for him.


Capt PPRuNe
14th Nov 2001, 21:39
Ahh... the Aurora Borealis. Nothing makes a long night flight back across the Atlantic pass quicker than one of those! I remember a flight a few years ago when we were somewhere close to 70 deg North and the aurora was actually south of us which made my day as it was on my side of the a/c!

I could sit and watch it for hours on end and not get bored. The faciniation with the ever changing shape and luminesence and the causes of it can make even the most fatigued brain find the energy to stay alert. Only when you have a grumpy catpain who insists on having all the flight deck lights turned up to full brilliance during an Aurural display do you realise that CRM has a lot to answer for!

Only other phenomena that kept me spellbound all night was a flight from Copenhagen to Bahrain a few years ago. It was a moonless night and the earth was passing through the Leonids. From the crystal clear air at FL350 we watched a spectacular display of well over 100 shooting stars a minute ALL night long. They were appearing in all quadrants of the sky from all directions. The biggr ones breaking up and splitting into smaller ones, some so brilliant that their trails stayed glowing for many seconds after. Even after the last stars had disappeared in the pre-dawn light the brighter streaks were still visible.

Tricky Woo
15th Nov 2001, 13:45
Well, according to them what knows, there's going to be the biggest Leonid meteor shower in decades this Saturday night.

Reasonable views in Europe; great views in the US; but by far the bestest views will be Oz and Kiwiland. Not sure why those Antipodeans get the full treatment, when they'll all be too pi ssed to see anything.


Wee Weasley Welshman
15th Nov 2001, 14:10
I saw my first lights a couple of months ago on a flight up to Keflavik. I always wondered if I would be as impressed with them as other people seemed to be.

I was.

It was the highlight of my aviation year (base check included).

Sitting at FL350 with the lights turned right down, the cabin crew on the jumpseats and my nose pressed against the glass.

Magic. :cool:


15th Nov 2001, 17:16
Coming back from Melbourne to Perth late one night in 1990 at FL430 in our Citation coasted via Norseman with Perth about 290 track miles on the nose you can expect, on those crystal clear nights, you can see the loom of Perth soon after.
Out my window on the left wingtip I saw what looked like the loom I was expecting over the nose. Bit of crosschecking takes place to confirm we're heading in the right direction.

The white "loom" then slowly turned into the most magnificent green with the red bars of a magnificent Aurora Australis seemingly all around us. I swear we were actually in it.

Had eldest daughter on board and got her to turn off the cabin lights and wake the rest for the sight of their lives.
The radio lit up with the RPT traffic around and behind us.

We only had about 30 minutes before we got busy coming down, but when we landed it was still visible against the city lights. Quite rare made the papers and something I will never forget.
Now I want to see the Northern Lights.

compressor stall
15th Nov 2001, 18:14
Hmm, methinks I am one of the lucky few to have seen the northern and southern lights.

Just remember that the Scandies say that it is bad luck to wave at them.

Tricky Woo
15th Nov 2001, 19:25
Herr Draper,

In a previous thread, you asked why both sides of the Earth bulge out, hence causing two tidal peaks on opposite sides of the Earth, when the Moon is only on one side.

Found an answer in my Ladybird Book of Newtonian Gravitational Theory:

One side of the Earth is closer to the Moon, so the near-side feels more gravitational tug that t'other far-side. The centre of the Earth gets something in between.

I've made up a few numbers to illustrate the point:

Near Earth Far
Side Centre Side
+9 +7 +5

On the surface, it looks like commonsense prevails, as the Earths apparant gravity should be lessened on the near-side, and increased on the far-side.

Not so.

In fact, this whole vector tugging thing first needs to be resolved across the board. To see what the true effect is on the Earth's surface, you've gotta subtract the tug at the centre of the Earth from itself, and also those on each side.

Near Earth Far
Side Centre Side
+9 +7 +5
-7 -7 -7


Near Earth Far
Side Centre Side
+2 0 -2

And there you have it: the Earth's apparant gravity is lessened by the same amount on both sides.

Funny that, but true.


tony draper
15th Nov 2001, 19:31
Brilliant,alas Draper grows old, a few years ago that would have been obvious.
Forgetting where I live, and drooling will be next I suppose. ;)

tony draper
15th Nov 2001, 21:27
Absolutley beautiful evening sky in Newcastle right now, red along the Western Horizon pale blue leading up to crystal clear black, whats the betting its socked in solid on for the Leonids.
Must be spiffing flying when the skys like this.
PS, I hope Draper doesn't catch anybody calling them meteorites. ;)

[ 15 November 2001: Message edited by: tony draper ]

Mirkin About
16th Nov 2001, 05:18
Herr Draper , only if one lands in my back yard.

16th Nov 2001, 07:05
I saw the northern lights for the first time last Tuesday. I was on my way back from Chicoutimi, a bit north of Quebec city, going to Toronto on my commercial cross country flight. Can they be seen from Manchester, Uk? Just want to know if i can see them when i go home.

compressor stall
16th Nov 2001, 08:27
Dan761 - it depends on the intensity of the display. They are visible EVERY night above 70deg latitude (from memory that is roughly the lat of North Cape, Norway and Point Barrow Alaska, and 240 nm north from the north coast of Iceland).

If there is an increase in solar activity the display will be more intense and may move to further southern latitudes, from where it may be visible outside of street/town lighting.

It is possible to see them from Manchester, however such occurrences are rare. The website listed earlier should provide you with the details on prediction. If something massive is predicted (as the cycle is at a maximum at the moment, this is likely) then I would be popping my head outside at regualr intervals if I were you.


17th Nov 2001, 19:01
One of my earlier across the ponds in a BAC111 at 370 at night and up near the entry point to the NAT, I happened to say to the Capt that I had never seen the Nothern lights, he looked out then said that it was my lucky night. It was just appearing, absolutely beautiful, and went on for quite a while.

It had appeared pretty much as I had asked and was right on cue. I was knocked out by it then have remembered it to this day and have rarely been so spectacularly obliged before or since, at least not since when I was nineteen and Jay said I could.... sorry never mind I digress.