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Updated June 14th 2019

Beautiful Cell From Maghera - NEW REPORT

New Chase Report

After a long drought the 2019 Summer storm season finally relented with a day of 600 CAPE and a risk of pulse storms. The odds were not great due to a lack of shear, cooler temps and cloud cover concerns with rain bands potentially killing the day. After a mid afternoon bust chase in Tyrone I returned home to be greeted by better solar heating and taller late evening towers. Radar showed a line of storms approaching Lough Neagh so I raced out the road, I battled frustrating roads and finally intercepted the line of cells S of Ballyonan, I followed them N through Gulladuff with nice gust front structure then finally I got treated to a beautiful late evening show from the Maghera countryside with sunlit cell sporting mammatus which I time-lapse departing into the distance at sunset. Also includes a missed funnel on camera and beautiful coastal sunset. One page report with 20 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT.

Missed Funnel Cloud & Stunning Sunset - UPDATE

On June 6th I made a blunder I regretted. That evening I was walking along a beach on the shore of Lough Foyle with my Mother and our dog Rhua, I had noticed the presence of capped towering cumulus in the area, the tops were flattening out but the bases were compact, dark and well defined, I thought to myself there could be funnels today, however I never took the thought that seriously. After 19.00 I was on the beach looking at the sand when I happened to look to my right, there was a fully mature funnel cloud rotating over Lough Foyle close to the south shore, I was flabbergasted and couldn't believe it. The funnel was black, very well defined with sharp edges like an inverted cone and tapered to a point over half way to the surface of the lough. I could actually see it rotating and I got the impression the the vortex was being stretched vertically from the water to the funnel, the surface was blocked by a pier so I considered the possibility of it being a waterspout. I had no camera on me, the DSLR and 100-400mm lens was back in the van and too far away, I knew I would never make it on time and sure enough it vanished within 1.5 minutes. I was so annoyed I didn't trust my instincts as I would be sharing a beautiful funnel cloud image on here now however at least I saw it, this was my first funnel sighting of the 2019 season.

June 8th, a day of low CAPE and very high wind shear, in fact, convective maps were showing more than 30 knots of speed shear with good moisture and low cloud bases, in theory tornadoes would have been possible in such a scenario. Big showers broke out during the late afternoon, I have never seen such hungry convection before, despite being low topped the cells were feeding from the rich low moisture, I routinely saw scud being sucked upwards into the main updraft, it was quite dramatic. A thunderstorm formed over the Sperrins however I had just arrived in Cookstown to meet Roisin. A downpour hammered the area for a very long time, once it moved E I could see the rear of the cell over Homebase, much to my delight I watched the cell back-build with continuous updraught formation, even though the cell was moving further away the constant towers gave the impression it was barely moving at all, in other words it was training. I took this 10mm shot of the scene and actually shot an 11 second time lapse from the car park grounds, and yes I did get strange looks from some of the shoppers leaving Homebase.

June 11th and once again at the north coast where I was doing a late evening drone flight. I had pulled into a picnic area to eat a sandwich before going home, the sky was covered in mid level cloud when suddenly the entire complex became under-lit by the setting sun. It was an astonishing sight, trees around me were cast in surreal red light while the cloud deck was lit orange then red with nice complex structure, the sunset show lasted for quite sometime and was for me the best sunset of the year. I launched the Mavic 2 Pro and shot these stills and several video sequences, I couldn't have asked for a better end to the day.

I have a new storm chase report which will feature these and a better chase day due shortly.


Portstewart Fireworks Display By Done - NEW REPORT

Drone View of Porstewart Fireworks

I have always wanted to film a fireworks display by drone however I always put off the event for various reasons due to weather or drone regulations. However after hearing about the Portstewart NW200 fireworks display on May 17th 2019 I finally decided I would tick it off my bucket list. The location and take off point satisfied all CAA regulations and I would be flying over the ocean which would be extra atmospheric. At 22.30 the fireworks erupted into life and from the rocks on the sea shore I launched my Phantom 3 Advanced and commenced aerial filming. The flight was a complete success, I was thrilled and satisfied with the experience in equal measure. Read more about how I went about the filming and my course of action pre-flight on the report. One page report with 4 stills and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

The 2019 Noctilucent Cloud Season - NEWS

The 2019 Noctilucent Cloud (NLC) season has arrived with the first sightings likely on any given night over the next week (time of writing on May 21st). The typical NLC season in the northern hemisphere runs from late May to mid August with the most spectacular displays visible on the weeks either side of the Summer Solstice. NLCs are a only visible when the sun is located between 6 and 16 degrees below the horizon coinciding with freezing/cooling air within the Mesosphere where NLCs reside, this only happens during the Summer months when gravity waves and Mesospheric cooling takes place. Your location needs to be bright enough to have twilight visible for much of the night but not too bright at more northern latitudes where NLCs will be invisible in a sky which is too bright, but also not too dark further south where NLCs will be low and not lit by sunlight, this goldilocks zone resides for observers at mid northern latitudes were viewing conditions are perfect for NLC visibility.

(Above) Type 4 complex NLCs over the Cookstown carriageway during June 2013. Check out my NLC gallery here.

The dedicated NLC observer or first time NLC hunter should begin a nightly check of their NW to N horizon during twilight after sunset and again to the N or NE before sunrise where NLCs could be lurking above the horizon waiting to be seen. As the season progresses displays should become brighter, more complex, and hopefully more frequent with NLCs revealing their presence at any stage during the short Summer nights, particularly during June and July when extensive displays may be visible all night long. Faint or delicate displays will need an experienced eye to catch, however complex displays can be spotted by even the most unattentive of observers and it's these displays which are the prize catch for any NLC hunter. Displays of this magnitude can reach type 4 or 5 brightness and literally dominate the sky while casting shadows on the ground. Displays of this caliber often exhibit electric blue colours and sport complex structures known as bands and herringbone which can give the impression of skeletal or net-like forms billowing across the horizon, if you are fortunate enough to witness such a display you will never forget the first visual impression.

NLCs are understood to be connected with the solar cycle which waxes and wanes approximately every 11 years with NLC frequency most prevalent around solar minimum, it's for this reason that confidence is good that the 2019 season should deliver a bounty of complex displays. These mysterious night shinning clouds are composted of meteoritic material which descend into the Earth's upper atmosphere, specifically these particles are of cometary origin and hence at least 4 billions years old, these particles are smaller in size than the particles within cigarette smoke, they become encased in ice crystals and descend to the upper Mesosphere where they become illuminated at night by the low Summer sun, when you witness NLCs you are observing celestial cloud structures with material as old as the solar system itself. Make sure to check out my instructional NLC article below which touches on their origins and which goes into detail on NLC observation...


I hope you have a great NLC season and capture your finest images of these magnificent alien clouds.


Hunting Celestial Wraiths - An Observing Guide To Comets - EBOOK

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 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 119 pages with 28463 words and 4.050KB in size and available as a pdf document which costs £5.99. I can accept payments through paypal or direct transfer, simply EMAIL ME if would like to make a purchase, thanks very much. - READ MORE.

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports - Archive

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports Section

Astronomy is not the only subject I'm interested in. One other such area is severe weather which will be playing a major role on nightskyhunter from now on in conjunction with my other astronomical pursuits. Check out my new 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 and aurora displays.

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Martin McKenna