The SU

Space Society Aurora Viewing

Space Society Aurora Viewing

Our Space Society were lucky to witness the aurora borealis over the weekend.

Bath Space Society’s chair, Rachel Hubbard, and stargazing secretary, Max Hurlstone, worked together to organise a social to view the aurora that occurred over the weekend. Rachel is a physics student, looking to pursue a career in solar weather forecasting, so had been paying attention to the increased solar activity. When they realised that an aurora was almost guaranteed Max and themselves organised and promoted a social enabling people to meet and watch the display.

More than 40 members of SpaceSoc and other groups gathered in a field between campus and Sham Castle with telescopes and cameras on Friday 10 May at 22:00. After just under an hour of waiting, the sky burst into life. White streaks, with pinks and greens, were visible to the naked eye and the cameras showed the details even better. They also saw the ISS orbit over during the aurora display!

But what causes these Northern Lights? A region of the Sun released five coronal mass ejections (CMEs) over two days. The plasma flung out by the CMEs hitting the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field is what leads to aurora displays. The forecast was for a G4 geomagnetic storm, and a G5 class – the most extreme – was reached. With this amount of activity over such a short period of time, and aurora visible from the UK were almost guaranteed. Auroras and a geomagnetic storm of this intensity have not occurred since the storms of late October 2003.

Rachel commented: “It was really special to get to organise and lead an aurora viewing social during my time as Chair, as someone who is so interested in solar weather forecasting. Sharing the wonders of the universe with people and seeing everyone talking about this industry is amazing! And we got an absolutely incredible display of aurorae!” Max added “Seeing SpaceSoc go from a £50 telescope carried in a plastic shopping bag in 2021 to £600 worth of telescopes and equipment and leading 40 people to watch the Northern Lights has been amazing!”

Social attendee May Glatz described her evening: “I genuinely just enjoyed lying in the grass, watching the aurora, and taking photos!”

For those who missed out SpaceSoc are planning an end-of-year stargazing social as June is going to be a good month for viewing planets. Keep an eye on their social media to keep up to date.