I set out early this evening as an initial glance out of the door at 20:15 UTC showed some aurora already visible to the naked eye in the north. Although I did not realise it at the time, this evening would turn out to include one of the most epic shows of aurora that I have witnessed to date. The photography this night was also a bit unusual in that I embraced the human activity (e.g. traffic) in my local patch instead of going out of my way to avoid it in my images like usual. So, my first image of the night features a digger! Well, why not?! This was early in the evening and there is already a very nice high rayed band showing to the naked eye and with purple ray tops on camera (Image 1). To the left of the image is a lot of light pollution from Reykjavik showing on the cloud, and the tall beam of light from the Imagine Peace Tower. Much of the night was certainly a battle with the cloud, with some nice aurora arcs and rays being visible in the gaps (Image 2).
There was aurora overhead for much of the period from 20:45 to 21:31 UTC, in moderate or weak intensity. However, from 21:31 I noticed a distinct area of growing activity to the east/north-east of my location, with what started as a bright glow on the horizon and then rapidly developing over several minutes into a low intense rayed band. This appeared to be an area of aurora approaching from the east/north-east direction with the intensity and structure becoming more apparent as it came closer. I am documenting this aurora fully in the images below, because it was a fascinating experience to see it initially appearing on the horizon and then approaching my location to become one of the most stunning overhead displays that I have observed to date.
Initially, the band of aurora was visible as a glow on the horizon with some taller defined rays (Image 3). The structure and intensity increased rapidly over the following minutes and the band extended westwards – my views were obstructed by cloud, but it was clear that a full rayed arc was forming east to west and to the south of my location, as can be seen in Images 4 to 6. Purple tops were now very clear on the ray tops and starting to be apparent to my naked eye too. By 21:42 the western side of the arc could be seen clearly out of the cloud, and the entire arc had increased in height to 60 degrees. The arc was still to the south of my location.
I was still battling with a lot of cloud to the south, but between 21:47 and 21:53 the band grew higher in the sky and intensified. Finally, at 21:54 the band came overhead and exploded into intense activity as it passed northward in the sequence of photographs shown in Images 7 to 11 below. Very fortunately, there was a cloud break in exactly the right place! Following this intense activity, the aurora further expanded and dissipated, decreasing to a moderate/strong intensity and covering much of the sky (Image 12). By 22:12 the most active bands were located entirely to the north of my position (Images 13 and 14). From 22:22, the activity started to shift southwards again and there was another burst of strong to intense activity between 22:26 and 22:29 when an intense band came overhead (Image 15). I stayed at location until 23:11 and for the remainder of that time the aurora was at moderate to strong activity and distributed over a wide area of sky, predominantly to the north but with elements also occasionally coming overhead (Images 16 to 18). The show was continuing when I departed.