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Lights, camera, action: Aurora's pastel hues light up the night skies

By Linda Stewart

Published 02/01/2016

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, was captured by Enda McAuley over Dunluce
The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, was captured by Enda McAuley over Dunluce
The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, was captured by Enda McAuley over Ballycastle
Tam Mullen snapped the phenomenon over Lough Neagh

Belfast's New Year revellers may have been denied fireworks this year, but nature put on its own spectacular display across Northern Ireland.

The night skies were lit up with glowing bands and pillars as the Aurora Borealis put on a dazzling show.

It came as Aurora Watch UK issued an amber alert to sky watchers on New Year's Eve, indicating a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights after a coronal mass ejection from the sun on December 29 sparked storm levels of geomagnetic activity.

Sky-watchers managed to capture stunning images of the aurora lighting up Ballycastle Beach, Dunluce Castle, Lough Neagh, the Vanishing Lake, the Dark Hedges and even the sky over Newtownabbey.

Tam Mullen managed to snap some beautiful images of the phenomenon glimmering over the south shore of Lough Neagh at Kinnego, with swans floating in the eerie light.

He was taking a brief break from a family celebration after his father, Billy, was named as a recipient of a British Empire medal in the New Year's Honours list.

"Normally when there's a chance of an aurora I would try to get a few shots," he said. "I would leave the camera running for a few hours to get an aurora time lapse.

"But these were a couple of pictures I snapped over the course of five minutes just before midnight. Due to a family celebration, I didn't have time.

"Looking out over the lough, there's not much light pollution, and it can extend that far south."

Mr Mullen said there was a lot of talk on social media that the aurora would be visible on December 30 because of a discharge from the sun - but in fact it did not hit until the morning of New Year's Eve.

"You could very clearly see the bands going across," Mr Mullen added. "There wasn't much green to the naked eye, but you got these little aurora pulses - bright spots and bright colours. Those are discernible to the naked eye and make for a spectacular display. When the aurora pulses, that is when you get the oohs and aahs."

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