Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Northern lights

Yesterday afternoon we hopped on a train to Preston, mostly to attend the University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN)'s spring astronomy lecture on the subject of the northern lights.  The last of these we went to was just before Christmas, and ended up being a little disappointing as the subject matter (comets) gave way to primary school level magic tricks.  This time we were hoping for something more, and weren't disappointed.

We got to Preston early enough for a mooch round the shops, and a quick zoom into the city museum which neither of us had ever visited before.  This is surprisingly small for such a large town, but was still very interesting and packed full of beautiful objects, in particular a wonderful collection of antique perfume bottles which I could happily have marched off with if I'd had a handbag the size of the Royal Albert Hall!

After a disappointing meal at a Chinese buffet (fine at Christmas but has mysteriously gone downhill) we headed to the university for the talk.  This was given by Professor Jim Wild, a staff member at the nearby Lancaster University, and very fascinating it was.  He managed to cover a surprising amount in just over an hour including the history of the study of the lights, some cultural stuff about how they're viewed by different cultures around the world, and the science behind them, as well as a brief 'how to' guide at the end on maximising your own chances of seeing them.  Something we could do with as in spite of living in such a northern location, and in spite of being here during a solar maximum when aurora activity should be at its height, we've still never seen them.  Ah well, keep watching the skies...!