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May 26th 2024

Co. Donegal Back-Building Convergence Zone Thunderstorms - NEW REPORT

Co. Donegal Storm Chase

May 20th 2024 - This was a day not to be ignored with high instability on a well defined convergence zone over the far west of the country, our area of choice looked to be Co. Donegal for the best action. Nigel McFarland picked me up and together we went chasing into the target area on the Cz where huge cells and towers were constantly erupting. From our scenic elevated vantage point over looking the hills of Donegal we experienced four thunderstorms however the main storm of the day was a rain making back-building machine which produced at least five hours of constant rain/hail with sporadic lightning which caused flash flooding damage on the flank of Errigal. We had the luxury of observing the entire storm under dry air for much of the time and even captured several c-g bolts on camera. One page report with 12 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

Severe G5 Geomagnetic Storm With Corona Over Beaghmore Fairy Tree - NEW REPORT

Epic G5 Geomagnetic Storm

May 10th 2024 - Mega sunspot group unfurling six CMEs and a violent impact at 800km/sec with a Bz of -50, the result was the most severe geomagnetic storm since 2003 and we had perfect clear skies. I was located in a field at Beaghmore in Co. Tyrone beside the famous fairy tree alongside a television film crew. As twilight deepened a truly spectacular aurora manifested covering the entire sky 360 degrees. Pink, green, blue, crimson and purple rays and streamers astonished us while overhead a remarkable corona dominated the sky. This corona took on the forms of birds and even a giant Angel, the display washed most of the stars from the sky and even appeared on the southern horizon. I observed it all night long and obtained my finest astro time lapse of my life. This was easily within my top five aurora experiences ever and a night never to be forgotten! One page report with 34 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

Fairy Tree Aurora & First Observation Of C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS) - NEW REPORT

Fairy Tree Aurora

April 26th 2024 - A wonderful clear night over the Sperrins which lured me out into a chilly Spring evening of comet hunting and aurora chasing. I packed my 10" F/5 reflector and drove to Beaghmore and set-up the gear in a lay by under a very dark sky. At 22.45 I made my very first observation of C/2023 A3 Tsuchinshan-ATLAS at mag +10 complete with a tail in Virgo, this comet might become our best since Hale-Bopp this October. Then I detected a faint auroral glow so I drove to the fairy tree in the middle of nowhere. Then suddenly at 1am a formation of ghostly pillars appeared in the sky like phantoms all around the fairy tree which made for a surprising photo opportunity and the perfect end to this fun session. One page report with 6 images. - REPORT.

First Thunderstorms Of Spring Chase Season - NEW REPORT

First Thunderstorms of Spring

First storm chase of 2024 which began with a bust day on March 29th then on the 30th I teamed up with Colleen Webb on Glenshane Pass to take advantage of 400 CAPE during prime heating when we hoped lift from the Sperrins would aid with cells. A bowing cluster of red cores arrived over the hills bringing our first gust front of the season while dumping a barrage of hailstones over Glenshane associated with a white core on radar. The cell then gave us several good rumbles of thunder making this our first thunderstorm intercept of Spring. A second chase to Lough Fea resulted in more rumbles making this my earliest Spring thunder since 2009. One page report with 10 images and 1 video clip. - REPORT.

Recurrent Nova TCrB Due To Erupt Soon? - WATCH

Skywatchers be on high alert for an extremely rare event which might happen in 2024, in fact, it could happen tonight! I urge you to check the constellation of Corona Borealis 'The Northern Crown' every clear night, even several times a night. Located at the SE (lower left corner) of the star Epsilon is a faint star called T Coronae Borealis or TCrB for short. This famous star, sometimes called 'The Blaze Star' is in fact a dramatic example of a reverse Nova, normally this star sits around mag +10 and can only be seen in large binoculars or small telescopes, however at periodic intervals spanning roughly 80 years this star suddenly flares in brilliance and becomes a naked eye Nova peaking at mag+2 breaking up the familiar pattern of the Northern Crown.

Previous outbursts occured during May 1866 and February 1946 with historical records highly indicative of earlier eruptions in ancient times also. The consensus is that this star is ready to erupt again at any moment. Predicitons favour Spring 2024 give or take several months but in truth no one knows for sure when it will happen, however based on previous eruptions the next one is imminent, if this happens we willl be witnessing a truly rare event and the brightest Nova in our sky since 1975.

To the naked eye a Nova looks like a new star has suddenly appeared in the sky but what we are are actually seeing is an old star going into outburst. This typically happens in binary star systems when we get a red giant with a smaller white dwarf companion orbiting around the parent star. Over time the smaller star captures material from the host star, if we could see it happening it would look like a tear drop of sellar atmosphere connecting one star to the other. Eventually a threshold is reached and a thermonuclear eruption takes place causing the white dwarf to increase in magnitude making it visible to the unaided eye.

The rise to mag +2 (Polaris) can happen extremely fast, over several hours, so it's possible the event could happen in the course of a single night where it will peak at its brightest before a slow decline sets in, so in order of having a chance of catching it in the act observers will need to be dedicated and vigilant. Corona Borealis will be well placed for the rest of the year, all one has to do is check the lower left corner with your naked eye any night the sky is clear and get in the habit of doing this often, you never know, you could be the one who witnesses this Nova as it takes to the stage, what an experience that would be.

If you are not familiar with variable stars and novae then google the subject, or better still read Leslie Peltier's Starlight Nights, he has a wonderful chapter dedicated to these stars and to his quest to see TCrB erupt, it's well worth reading. I wish you all clear skies and happy hunting. Check out the chart above from Sky & Telescope.

Benone Beach Surprise G2 Geomagnetic Storm & Comet Observing - NEW REPORT

New Report

On March 3rd 2024 a CME glancing blow from a filament eruption arrived delivering a G1 geomagnetic storm. At first the potential didn't look good with a slow solar wind speed however a sustained period of southerly Bz at -14 really got my attention. I almost didn't go aurora chasing however a hunch told me to make the effort to drive to the north coast to avoid advancing cloud. After filming an impressive rainbow with the drone I then drove to Benone beach. Upon arrival the aurora went into a dramatic outburst reaching G2 levels with vibrant rays reaching 70 degrees high with green and red colours visible to the naked eye. As the aurora danced I observed comet 12P/Pons-Brooks from the beach, at one stage the aurora was with the comet at same time which made for a fabulous experience. This aurora caught me completely by surprise, an exciting and photogenic event. One page report with 14 images. - REPORT.

Dramatic Snow Curtains Over Garvagh & Binevenagh Snow With Glory - NEW REPORT

Dramatic Garvagh Snow Curtains

My first chase of the new year. On January 17th 2024 I woke to a frozen world with -4C temps and a layer of snow, trusting model guidance I drove north after sunrise to get into a better location for snow showers and instability. During a break in Garvagh a large convective snow cell approached from the coast and began making its way inland towards me. I got the drone in the air and for the next 30 min's got treated to an impressive sight of this mean cell dropping dramatic snow curtains across the Winter landscape. This was followed by a visit to the north coast where I obtained aerial footage of Binevenagh covered in snow with spectacular low cloud and fog covering the peaks complimented by a glory. This turned out to be a highly rewarding and photogenic Winter chase. One page report with 22 images and 2 video clips. - REPORT.

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Image Reports - ARCHIVE

N. Ireland Storm Chasing Reports & Photo Shoots

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