Aurora, what aurora?

All of us want to see the aurora, right? Whether you think it's magical or simply the result of solar activity interacting with our magnetic field - they're meant to be a beautiful sight to behold.

It was extremely unlikely I'd ever see them when I lived in England, but having relocated to Scotland I had an inkling of hope that maybe, just maybe, I'd be able to see them now and again, adding it to the list of stunning natural phenomena that already greets me here every day. Not asking for much right?

So you can imagine my childish glee when someone let me know there was an app on your phone, that sent you alerts when it was likely to be visible - and even better, it was based on proper science rather than crowdsourced from incredibly unreliable human beings.

Fast forward to last night and I'm walking home - the sky is clear and stars shimmered against the dark night sky. With only a handful of very dispersed street lights the torch on my phone guided me home. Half an hour later and my phone beeps.

A yellow alert!

Yellow is minor, exciting enough if you're already outside, probably not worth stepping outside at 11pm if you're already cosy in bed. I was cosy, but I was always wide awake. The alert level started creeping up, it was not long until it hit amber. Aurora were likely to be visible by eye in Scotland and Northern England.

I was in Scotland! I had eyes!

That settled it, I headed outside. Boots back on, torch back on, and with an extra layer just to keep the wind out and I braved the darkness just before midnight.

I looked North, searching for the give away glimmers of green and red that were the telltale signs of an aurora. Nothing. I checked my phone again, it was still going up, now just shy of red - an infrequent level where it might be visible across all of the UK.

Yet as I stared, I couldn't see a thing. Not even a glimmer.

Not even a glimmer.

Then it hit me. In my excitement I hadn't bothered to look straight up and make the simplest of observations. There were no stars. In the hour since I'd been home, the skies had gone from crystal clear to entirely overcast.

That's OK. Anyone who keeps up with my posts knows the weather changes roughly every two and a half minutes, so all I had to do was wait it out, wait for a break in the clouds, and bask in the magnetic glory of atmospheric disturbances.

So I walked - not really that far from home, maybe ten minutes. But it was dark - even with a torch it felt like the night was closing in around you, that any minute it would win and the light would sputter out leaving you groping around with no idea where you were or where you were going. With no idea what might be out there...

My new home is safe, far safer than where I used to live - it was hardly dangerous, but I wouldn't feel comfortable stumbling around in the dark after midnight. I certainly wouldn't amble or hang around in one spot for too long.

Despite the knowledge that there were no risks around, I couldn't shake the instincts that I should be inside. Every time I turned my torch off, the hairs on the back of my neck would tingle, some ancient part of me telling me to watch out, there could be someone, something out there. ..

Shaking off this irrational feeling I continued to wait, excitement rising any moment there was a small break in the clouds. They would come and go, but always in the wrong direction, or to brief to spot anything of note.

On the horizon I tried to convince myself that the glow was the aurora, not just light pollution from a distance city reflecting off the low lying clouds.

For minutes I stared, telling myself it was a little green, a bit of red. Shakily at maximum zoom I tried to take a photo on my phone, destroying my night vision in the process. That was it, on the photo I could see green! It had to be. Surely. Maybe?

Was it aurora, or just my normally underused sense of hope?

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