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LATEST SKY EVENTS

Beautiful Single Cell Thunderstorm & Partial Solar Eclipse At OM - NEW REPORT

New Report

This report covers two storm chases and a partial solar eclipse which I observed from the newly opened OM Dark Sky Park & Observatory with the staff and IAA when we successfully captured the eclipse through cloud during the 30% peak. The highlight of this report was an unexpected local chase when strong solar heating broke the cap resulting in rapid convection by late afternoon. I chased a growing cell from Maghera to a scenic vantage point near Knockloughrim and got rewarded with a beautiful single cell thunderstorm in full sunshine surrounded by blue skies rumbling away over the Co. Antrim countryside. One page report with 12 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

2021 Noctilucent Cloud Season Is Underway - WATCH

The 2021 Noctilucent Cloud (NLC) season has begun with reports already coming in during late May from mid northern latitudes. Although sightings in May are far from unusual what is unusual is the lower latitude visibility which tends to occur during June. Furthermore NASA's AIM spacecraft has noted a dramatic increase in NLC growth within 48 hour period, this is in response to increased amounts of moisture within the Mesosphere so if the current conditions continue when we could be in for an impressive season.

NLCs are a Summertime night sky phenomena which bridge the gap between Astronomy and Meteorology when such things as the upper atmosphere, gravity waves, comet dust and solar cycles all combine to produce a spectacular twilight phenomena. Noctilucent means 'night shining', these clouds glow electric blue and are located 83km above the surface literally on the edge of space, this is the region were meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere. During Summer in the northern hemisphere the Mesosphere becomes much colder resulting in abundant ice crystal formation. The seed of NLC particles is now understood to be meteor 'smoke', or more specifically tiny grains of dust particles from ancient comets which visited the inner solar system in the distant past. This cosmic dust becomes encased in ice which in turn reflects the low Summer sun causing these mysterious clouds to glow.

NLCs are never seen in daylight, they are very tenuous and require a viewing condition when the sun is between 6 and 16 degrees below the horizon. The typical season runs from late May to early August with peak activity during June and July either side of the solstice. NLC seasons fluctuate in conjunction with the 11 year solar cycle with the most prolific seasons manifesting during solar minimum. NLCs are completely unpredictable and sightings on any given night are often fortuitous. Scan the NW to N horizon 2-3 hours after sunset then again in the N to NE before sunrise. Normal Tropospheric clouds will look dark against the twilight sky while NLCs will appear to glow or stand out sharply against the background sky. Major displays are a worth seeing and capturing on camera, on occasion type 4 and 5 displays will illuminate buildings or cause mist and fog to glow and cast obvious shadows. They often sport dramatic cloud structures which give the phenomena an alien-like appearance with whirls, banded forms, twisted waves or net-like forms.

NLCs can be spectacular, each year observers and photographers loose sleep to undertake nightly vigils to spot these amazing clouds in the hopes of being treated to an exceptional show. Keep your camera batteries charged and become a night watch man checking the twilight sky around midnight each clear evening. Make sure to check out the Nightskyhunter NLC Article to learn more about the origins of these clouds and how to identify brightness and structure from a casual glance. Can you tell the difference between IIa bands and IIIb waves? and which is brighter, a type 2 or type 5 display?, now is the time to brush up on your knowledge and enjoy these wonderful clouds. I wish you all clear skies and a spectacular season.

May Storm Chasing - Lough Foyle & Slaughtneil Funnel Cloud Outbreaks - NEW REPORT

Funnel Cloud Outbreak

Storm season has arrived and as we entered May the synoptic outlook took on a more unsettled and unstable pattern which produced over a week of convective potential. This report documents five chase days which resulted on the capture of a funnel cloud outbreak. On May 1st I captured 2 funnel clouds over Lough Foyle five minutes apart then May 12th I got treated to two more funnels over Carntogher outside Slaughtneil, the first funnel lasted for five minutes and was a dramatic sight has it hung in the sky like a dagger. These recent funnel sightings also broke several personal records by being the earliest and latest funnels I've ever seen. One page report with 21 images. - REPORT.

Broughderg & Beaghmore Night Shoots & More - NEW REPORT

Detailed report covering a range of night shoots in April 2021 - Astronomical telescopic observations, Zodiacal Light, Nova V1405 Cass and Asteroid 4 Vesta. First official meet up and night shoot of the year with mates shooting nightscapes and star trails at the Crucifixion scene and Lady of Wayside chapel in Broughderg as well as the Milky Way with mag +8 Nova over Beaghmore Stone Circles. This report also documents deep sky and comet observing with the 10" F/5 Reflector including the first convective skies and lowering of the Spring season. One page report with 19 images. - REPORT.

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports - Archive

Northern 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

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