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Published: September 28th 2013
Forecast for tonight. Similar to last night.
Imagine a doughnut.
(Mmm – cream doughnut).
No, no cream. Just a big doughnut. (Mmm – big jam doughnut).
Sigh – no, no jam. Just a big plain doughnut, with a hole in the middle. No sprinkles. No sugar coating. Just a good ol' fashioned plain doughnut. (Pause).
Got it? Now make it bigger.
Bigger. Bigger. Tell you what, make it roughly 2500 miles across. (My my young man, now that is a big doughnut).
Now, I want you to hold it over the North Pole (actually, the magnetic pole)
(Actually, a few degrees off the magnetic pole).
Hold it about 25-50 miles above the Earth’s surface (careful not to drop it).
The doughnut will actually be over the top of Iceland, top of Alaska, about halfway over Greenland, top of Norway, and Russia.
Now then, imagine you are in South Iceland (actually, this is very easy for me to do) and you are looking at the huge doughnut in the sky. You’re about 200 miles away, but you can see the side of the huge doughnut, falling away on either side as it recedes over the horizon.
What my photos might have looked like (without the trees).
Hold our hand out at arm’s length, with your hand in a fist, the bottom of your fist touching the horizon. That’s about the height of the doughnut in the middle from where you’re standing, each side tapering off as the huge doughnut curves away from you on each side. Then hold your arms out at about 45 degrees from your body on either side. That’s where the sides of the doughnut taper off to the ground.
Pause a moment. (Do you realise how stupid you look? Like some demented traffic cop with a huge doughnut in your mind).
Last bit. Imagine the doughnut is not made from ordinary doughnut mix, but is actually made of some ethereal, green translucent light. Shifting gradually, with streaks appearing and disappearing.
That’s what we were looking at last night. The auroral oval. It looks a bit like a weird sort of false dawn (aurora means “false dawn”).
The sky was totally clear. We had a totally panoramic view of the sky, 360 degrees all round. The stars were amazing. We could see the Milky Way all the way down to the horizon. We have never seen the stars so clear (not even on a Winter’s night in the Lakes). That in itself was enough, but then the aurora started around 10:30pm.
Sadly, it wasn’t directly over our heads. It does get down here, the doughnut can get bigger and can be pushed down the Earth depending on the weather (space weather that is – solar wind), but as geomagnetic activity was not that high last night, it remained to the North (note to self – need to book a trip to Arctic Circle – Norway or Lapland - sometime) but still, it was a beautiful, haunting sight. Lasted about a couple of hours, then faded.
Now then, imagine a penis. (Mmm – cream . . . .
Now make it bigger.
Bigger. Bigger. Tell you what, make it roughly 2500 miles long.
Now then. Imagine it attached to the middle of your forehead, stretching out for 2500 miles.
That’s me that is.
Took my camera out. Brought my tripod. Read up on taking long exposure photographs then set it up for some amazing astronomy photos.
Trouble was, I completely forgot all about opening up my aperture (oo-er missus) and I completely forgot about altering my ISO settings to increase light sensitivity.
(And before you ask, it had absolutely nothing to do with the two bottles of Malbec we had drunk earlier. Nothing whatsoever).
So, I have a fantastic set of pure black pictures. I’ve got loads of completely black pictures of the amazing sky. I’ve got loads of completely black pictures of the amazing Milky Way. And I’ve got loads of completely black pictures of the aurora.
Something to show the grandkids (only joking Fran/Binks, no rush).
But . . . an amazing end to an amazing day.
Iceland is weird and beautiful in its own way (bit like me), it’s enough to inspire one to poetry.
(Not yet my pretty, not yet).
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