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Updated May 16th 2020

The 2020 Noctilucent Cloud Season - WATCH

The 2020 Noctilucent Cloud season will soon be underway for observers located at mid northern latitudes. The typical NLC window period runs from mid May through to mid August each year. NLCs are a mysterious high altitude cloud phenomena which form within the Mesosphere some 82km above the Earth's surface where freezing temperatures aloft and gravity waves generate conditions just rite for their formation. In short, NLCs are composed of tiny meteoritic material encased in ice crystals which in turn reflect and scatter sunlight and in turn announce their presence to observers as mysterious illuminated clouds which possess an unearthly glow above the northern horizon.

NLCs will manifest when the sun is between 6 and 16 degrees below the horizon and their frequency and intensity vary with the solar cycle with the best apparitions often coinciding with solar minimum. NLCs can very from subtle wispy enhancements to the background sky to vast networks of complex structures dominating the mid summer night with electric blue and silver colors which at times can reach the zenith, type 5 displays can illuminate buildings, cast shadows and even impair your dark adaption. For this reason NLCs are greatly sought after each season for no one knows for sure what to expect, they are visually breathtaking to watch and make for a wonderful trophy for photographers. The first displays will appear soon however their complexity and magnitude should peak on the weeks either side of the Summer Solstice. You need nothing more than your eyes to catch these magnificent clouds in the act, simply scan the W/NW sky above the horizon 1-2 hours after sunset and the N/NE horizon 1-2 hours before sunrise, some displays will stretch across the entire northern sky and will be visible all night long, what will the 2020 season bring?

Above is a video all about NLCs explaining their origins and history with a detailed section on NLC brightness and structure, I have used my own images and time lapse footage to help you observe this wonderful phenomena with complete audio commentary. The actual article can be viewed here. NLCs will make for the perfect phenomena to watch during lock down so why not make them a part of you life?

Complex Sun Halo Displays During Lock Down! - NEW REPORT

Complex Sun Halo Report

Its lock down during the Covid-19 pandemic here in N. Ireland and we have been experiencing our finest period of weather for a very long time. Strong high pressure brought back to back days of sunshine, blue skies, warm temps and no rain for two weeks which also presented me with many clear nights during which I have been tracking three comets as they moved among the stars from night to night. If this wasn't good enough I experienced two days in a row of complex sun halo displays with sundogs, UTA, CZA, parry arcs, supralateral arc and even a full 360 degree parhelic circle. These were among my finest halo captures to date due to so many forms being present during a single apparition, what a wonderful period this was. One page report with 21 images and 3 video clips. - REPORT.

An Observing Guide To Comets Ebook - Special Reduced Price of £3.00

Welcome to the first ever ebook from Nightskyhunter. This book is aimed at the amateur astronomy enthusiast who is interested in observing comets with the assumption that the reader already has some basic knowledge of the night sky and is competent with observing through binoculars and telescopes. Through 'Hunting Celestial Wraiths - An Observing Guide To Comets' my aim is to cover many of the most important and interesting aspects of the visual comet observing spectrum with the intention of allowing the reader to choose which level of skill he or she may wish to invest within this fascinating field with the information and confidence to take things to the next level and provide valuable cometary observations which could be of scientific value. The ebook covers...

* The sighting which got me hooked on comets for life

* The life of a comet

* How comets are named

* Telescopic and naked eye test subjects to train your eyes

* Observing instruments

* Finding a comet in the sky

* Observing practices such as magnitude estimates, coma & tail diameters, degree of condensation, position angles etc

* Estimating the true length of a comet's coma and tail

* Coma and tail structures such as jets, fans, knots, hoods, dust tails, ion tails and anti-tails, from disconnection events to synchronic bands

* Comet sketches

* Recording your observations and keeping an astronomical log book

The book is complimented with many of my own comet sketches including detailed extracts from my observing logs showcasing many comet observing sessions over the years which is the heart and soul of the book. It is my hope that these sessions will make you feel you are looking through the eyepiece with me. The book is 116 pages with 27,414 words and 3617KB in size and available as a pdf document which costs (special price £3.00) £5.99. I can accept payments through paypal or direct transfer, simply EMAIL ME if would like to make a purchase, thanks very much.


''I have come to know Martin McKenna through my time as a comet observer, and share his passion with comets. I hope that by reading this book you have some beginning and/or continuing interest in comets as they are quite fascinating and fun to observe. No two comets are the same. Comets are still objects of wonder and mystery and are still required to be studied by amateur and professionals alike. Contribution to Astronomical Science has never been easier or popular as it is now''

''Martin has a done a great service to the amateur astronomical community with his enthusiasm, his attention to detail and his love of the night sky and other natural phenomena and sharing it with the world. Truly inspiring stuff. I can tell that his writing style comes straight from the heart. It is easy to get caught up in the moment as he describes them and hopefully you will get to experience future events much the same, if not letting the stories composed here leave you reminiscing about moments from the past''

''I happened to be on the receiving end of one of the comets he witnessed well before it became visible to me down under, the display it put on is forever etched in my memory (and many others down here) and set me on a course to begin seriously observing comets. I hope that you enjoy the book and that you keep your eyes to the skies as we will never know exactly when the next great comet will turn up, it could be just around the corner……..then you will lose sleep and you will enjoy chasing clear skies if only for a glimpse of it, and it will all be worth it!''

Chris Wyatt
Walcha, NSW, Australia

''Martin and I have been personal friends for a long time and I have been with him on many observing sessions sometimes lasting all night and I can honestly say that his infectious zeal for comets and astronomy in general is unsurpassed. On reading the reports on his website you could actually imagine you were there with him in person, and observing at the eyepiece''

''My first comet was Arend-Roland in April 1957 and it has been a joy to be able to help Martin with this ebook albeit in a very small way, and by reminiscing about comets of the past it has actually rekindled my own interest in observing and photographing them. I sincerely hope that this ebook has the same effect on the reader, and that it will encourage you to follow in his footsteps with that same interest and dedication''

John C McConnell FRAS

Maghaberry, N. Ireland

Zodiacal Light, Planet Venus, Comet Observing & Faint Aurora - Beaghmore Stones Circles & Ballintoy Harbour - NEW REPORT

Zodiacal Light Shoot

Detailed image report documenting three back to back nights of superb clear skies to observe and shoot the Zodiacal Light, planet Venus and hunt down Comet C/2019 Y4 ATLAS by telescope. I spent the first two nights at Beaghmore Stone Circles where we met lovely people and observed through my 8" telescope. On the third night Roisin and I went to Ballintoy on the north coast and documented the ZL with John Fagan, Paul Martin and Tracy Sharkey where we got treated to amazing skies and even a faint aurora display. These were three memorable and special nights before the Covid-19 lock down arrived. One page report with 18 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

Sperrin View Glamping Night Sky Photography - NEW REPORT

Sperrin View Glamping Night Photography Report

My first photo shoot of 2020, on three different nights I was joined by mates to shoot the night sky at Sperrin View Glamping located near Beaghmore Stone circles within the Sperrins. With only two weeks until this new venture officially opened to the public we were given permission to document the site during several frosty nights in January. We shot starscapes, star trails and time lapse over the four glamping pods and large communal hub while allowed access to the facility to take shelter when needed. As a result we got a behind the scenes experience at this location under the stars complimented by Orion the Hunter with Betelgeuse undergoing a record breaking dimming event. A wonderful experience and a great shoot to get the new year underway. One page report with 29 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports - Archive

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports

Astronomy is not the only subject I'm interested in, check out my N. Ireland Storm Chasing section and view the chase reports and images which detail not only storms but other phenomena such as a moonbows, noctilucent clouds, aurora displays and exciting nature related photo shoots.

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Martin McKenna