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N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports - 2020


What a year 2020 was with a world wide pandemic which resulted in several lock downs throughout the year. However despite this negativity and many cloudy uneventful nights during Autumn 2020 still had some special moments. The Spring heat wave with back to back clear nights, an abundance of telescopic comets, a complex halo display then the thunderstorms from Mullaghmore and Omagh, the latter producing the largest updraught I've ever seen There was one event which made the entire year, this was the surprise visitor comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE. Seeing a naked eye comet with gold coma and tail embedded within complex NLCs on balmy Summer nights was an experience I shall never forget, this one comet saved the year for me. Join me on my adventures through these 20 image reports.

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. Sperrin View Glamping Pods Nightscapes - January 2020
On January 19th 2020 I was chilling out after Sunday dinner when I casually glanced out the window and was astonished by a remarkable sunset skyscape taking place. I drove out the road into the countryside and launched my drone to get a better perspective and got treated to the best sunset sky show I have ever experienced in my life. The horizon was burning with an intense yellow afterglow while sections of highly structured mid level cloud were painted an intense red colour which lasted for a long time after sunset, during one glorious moment I could see overhead stars while the sky was on fire. The view of this stunning sky over the distant lights of Cookstown made for a magical memory. One page report with 7 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Epic Cookstown Sunset - January 19th 2020
Detailed image report beginning with a moonlit shoot at Swatragh Church then evolving into three days and two nights of Winter chasing during the cold unstable air mass behind storm Ciara from Feb 10th to Feb 13th 2020. During this busy period I chased both inland and at the coast, I experienced snow and hail showers, severe squalls, ocean lightning, superb Winter convection, damaged live power lines, photogenic Cbs over the ocean during twilight with stars and wonderful aerial scenes of snow on Benbradagh by drone. One page report with 33 images and 4 video clips. - REPORT. Storm Cirara, Winter Convection, Snow & Drone Scenes - February 2020

After storm Ciara it wasn't long before a new storm arrived in the form of Dennis on February 16th 2020 which would bring gales and convective potential. Roisin and I got up early and went chasing for the day with the intention of targeting unstable skies to the NW. We arrived on Benone Strand where we got treated to a very dynamic ocean with beautiful swells and rolling waves crashing close to shore in nice light. Many people came to watch the sea, several got trapped in the sand (including us) with several tidal surges and an ocean thunderstorm. Later from Gortmore we experienced +70mph winds from a severe squall with hail which shook the van so badly we thought we were going to tip over, a very exciting day indeed. One page report with 17 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT.

Storm Dennis, Thunderstorms & Gortmore Severe Squall - February 16th 2020
After a long Winter battling wet snow set-ups we finally got rewarded with beautiful snow scenes. Between February 25th and 27th 2020 I spent three days snow chasing in the Sperrins which resulted in my finest scenes of the season, from morning thundersnow to stunning snow landscapes on Glenshane Pass, Birren Road, Mullaghmore and Moneyneany by drone and climaxing with a vivid diamond dust optics display in the form of striking Sundogs and a Parhelic Circle over snow complimented by strongly sheared snow cells which made for a very photogenic and rewarding period. One page report with 27 images and 4 video clips. - REPORT. Moneyneany Winter Scenes & Vivid Sundogs - February 26th 2020
Report documenting aerial filming of a light pollution protest at the Greencastle GPO then on March 12th 2020 I was treated to a surprise night snowfall which resulted in a late night solo Winter chase on Glenshane Pass. The night began filming cars and trucks spinning out on their way up the mountain then the drama evolved into peace and beauty when the clouds parted and the fresh snow was illuminated by bright moonlight. I shot stills and time lapse footage using two DSLRs and captured my old favourite derelict house in moonlit snow. The best scene of the night, and perhaps the season, was a moonlit snow star trail over an old gate. One page report with 9 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Glenshane Pass Moonlit Snow Scenes - March 12th 2020
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. Zodiacal Light, Venus & Faint Aurora At Beaghmore Stone Circles & Ballintoy - March 2020
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. Complex Sun Halo Phenomena During Lock Down - April 23rd & 24th 2020
June 14th 2020, lock down restrictions lifted which coincided with the first big thunderstorm outbreak of the season. 1300 CAPE, strong humidity and solar heating, sea breeze convergence zone and 40 knots DLS in the west would fire intense organized thunderstorms. Models indicated the best potential would be in a target area between Omagh & Sligo. This was an historic chase day as five car loads of us chased west in a coordinated storm chase with Nigel McFarland, Paul Martin, John Fagan & Colleen Webb. We got treated to eight storms, the most explosive convection I've ever seen and climaxing with a fantastic photogenic multicell storm with shelf cloud over the fields at Mullaghmore accompanied by two hours of thunder. What a fantastic day with 13.5 hours spent on the road. One page report with 23 images and 2 videos. - REPORT. Intense Thunderstorms Over Mullaghmore Co. Sligo - June 14th 2020
June 15th 2020, second day in a row of big thunderstorms across N. Ireland with high CAPE, strong shear and convergence which produced an outbreak of HP storms. I chased all day through Co. Tyrone and intercepted 7 storms, encountered intense cores and flash flooding then two more storms on the way home. The climax was the amazing sheared storm near Omagh which I watched from Pigeon Top with Paul Martin, this storm had the largest updraught plume I have ever experienced in my entire life with rock solid clouds and explosive formation. The storm itself had an intense core with rain foot and huge back rain free base with rotation and possible RFD slot with supercellular traits, an amazing day. One page report with 20 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT. Tyrone Storm Chasing & Amazing Updraught On Omagh Cell - June 15th 2020
Chase report covering two days of action beginning on June 25th when I drove to Cushendun at night to watch lightning from elevated storms and a likely supercell over Scotland in the company of Nigel McFarland and Colleen Webb. The following day brought big CAPE and this time I had a wonderful solo chase from west to north from Co. Tyrone, through the Sperrins and across beautiful countryside as I tracked a sheared thunderstorm which produced a rare Horseshoe Vortex, a suspect wall cloud, a funnel cloud then two more storm intercepts on the way home, what began as a look at the sky ended in an eight hour chase with three storms. One page report with 17 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Scotland Night Lightning & Sperrins Storm Chase With Horseshoe Vortex - June 26th 2020

Two page comet chasing report covering nine nights observing and shooting comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE from various locations in N. Ireland from June 11th to June 28th 2020. NEOWISE surprised the world when it suddenly surged in brightness during perihelion passage then emerged into the northern circumpolar sky as the brightest naked eye comet since Hale-Bopp 23 years ago. NEOWISE astonished me with its rapidly changing form and tail displays, the comet was notable for it's striking gold DC:9 coma and sweeping golden dust tail perched in the Summer twilight sky, the telescopic view of the coma looked similar to renditions of great comet Donati. I observed a search light beam tail of 20 degrees with the naked eye and during one unforgettable night I watched this golden comet embedded within a complex electric blue NLC display which was a dream come true. I documented the comet from Ballintoy Harbour, Dunluce Castle, Cookstown, Beaghmore Stone Circles, near a fairy tree and from inside a graveyard near Omagh, my final sighting of this rare visitor was over the tree tops at Davagh Forest. From a visual perspective this ranks as one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen in nature. Two page report with 41 images & 1 video clip - PAGE 1, PAGE 2.

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE From Northern Ireland
On September 5th and 6th 2020 I spent two nights in a sunflower field shooting nightscapes, something I have always wanted to do. I spotted the field on the Omagh road outside Cookstown in Co. Tyrone quite by chance and followed this up with a daylight visit which resulted in permission from the owners for a night shoot. The first night was a solo experience and the second was with two other photographers. The brilliant light from the waning full moon illuminated the yellow flowers perfectly, I shot time lapse, stills and even short star trails which resulted in a subtle moonbow over the field, a really fun and unexpected shoot. One page report with 13 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Moonlit Sunflower Field & Scare Crow In Kildress - September 2020
Report documenting four nights in Co. Tyrone on Aug 24th, Aug 29th, Sept 6th & Sept 19th 2020 covering superb clear skies and vivid Milky Way scenes over the 10,000 year old bog lands at An Creagan visitor's centre on the Omagh Road. Then an unusual subject matter when I visited a local quarry on three different nights with various photographers under bright moonlight then dark skies shooting nightscapes, star trails and time lapse over the alien-looking quarry machinery which made for a most unusual subject matter. One page report with 20 images and 1 time lapse video. - REPORT. An Creagan Milky Way & Tyrone Quarry Star Trails - 2020
September 25th 2020, a convective outlook had been issued for parts of Ireland & N. Ireland however models indicated nothing inland so instead I got prepared for a night shoot. I glanced out the window and observed this wonderful sight. A thunderstorm to the NE of the country had generated a line of convective hail showers & along the leading edge was a long Shelf Cloud. The structure looked dramatic in the beautiful golden hour light just before sunset, I captured the scene using the Mavic 2 Pro as the Shelf posed over a lush country foreground with fields and a local farm. One page report with 7 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Sunset Shelf Cloud By Drone - Cookstown, September 25th 2020
New report documenting three night shoots in Co. Tyrone on September 23rd, 24th and 25th 2020. During this period I was rewarded with superb transparent skies with stars below mag +6 and even the Gegenschein on view. After moonset I shot the Milky Way and star trails over a recently discovered fairy tree, the same location also spawned our first aurora display of the current season. On the third night I was treated to a gorgeous moonbow arching over the famous standing stones at Beaghmore Stone Circles which made my night. I chat a little about moonbow formation and current focusing issues with the Irix Blackstone 15mm F/2.4 lens. One page report with 11 images. - REPORT. Fairy Tree & Beaghmore Stone Circles Milky Way
October 28th 2020 turned into an unexpected filming session when a deep low pressure system generated active sea conditions at the north coast of N. Ireland. After a tip-off from a mate I arrived at Castlerock Beach two hours before sunset where I experienced a wonderful stormy seascape with trains of large waves, swells and a high storm surge which impacted both piers at the famous Bar Mouth. Due to rare conditions rarely seen with large waves - no rain and no wind - I was able to obtain dramatic drone footage of the spectacle in great light just in time before the next frontal system arrived. One page report with 9 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Bar Mouth Large Waves & Storm Surge Drone Footage - October 2020
After a quiet Autumn my long wait for convection was finally over on November 4th 2020 with an unstable NWly cold air mass flow bringing over 100j/kg of CAPE and a risk of convective showers and ocean thunderstorms. I spent the day chasing at the north coast where I got rewarded with a photogenic cell with gust front which delivered an intense hail shower over Benone beach. Later in the day I witnessed a beautiful sunset rainbow featuring a rare reflection rainbow between the primary and secondary arcs. One page report with 17 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT. Benone Beach Hail Showers & Rare Sunset Reflection Rainbow - November 4th 2020
After a very uneventful October and November for weather action December arrived in style turning the atmospheric tables and delivering our first cold spell of the season on the 3rd with temps as low as -5C in places for several days. I didn't expect snow at all however I was pleasantly surprised by a beautiful covering of snow on the summits of Mullaghmore and Moneyneany in the Sperrins. I was on the scene from 7am with Nigel McFarland and spent the day documenting the snow via DSLR and drone which produced a bounty of beautiful scenes which made the day highly rewarding. One page report with 16 images and 4 video clips. - REPORT. First Snow Of Winter - Mullaghmore & Moneyneany Winter Scenes - Dec 3rd 2020
Last image report of the year showcasing a selection of miscellaneous images captured from Spring to Winter 2020 covering night shoots to snow adventures. Included is comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, star trails, meteor watches, the close approach of planet Mars, north coast night shoots, Milky Way, Churches, NLCs and the great conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. One page report with 32 images. - REPORT. Various Images Throughout 2020 - Spring To Winter

'ENTROPY' - The Nightskyhuter 2020 end of year video presentation showcasing my best work during the year of planets, conjunctions, Zodiacal Light, night shoots, thunderstorms, NLCs, nightscapes, atmospheric optics and the rare 23 year naked eye comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE which was the star of the show. This compilation features hand held video, day and night time lapse cinematography and aerial footage. The video is approximately 29 min's in duration and best watched at 1080p HD on youtube.


Martin McKenna

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