At AuroraWatch UK we’ve always enjoyed looking at your photos of the aurora but, up until now, we’ve never captured any of our own. Today, however, we have some exciting news to share: AuroraWatch UK is getting its own aurora camera!
Thanks to funding from Lancaster University’s Faculty of Science and Technology, the AWUK team have purchased an all-sky camera that will be dedicated to capturing the aurora and other night sky phenomena, such as meteor showers, from the UK. This camera will be located at our magnetometer station near Aberdeen and will provide real-time colour images of the aurora.
With other aurora cameras, such as the Shetland Cliff Cams, proving highly popular with our AWUK followers, we hope that this camera will be a big success too. Some very similar set-ups to our camera are already operational and capturing images of the aurora, including a camera located in Canada owned by Thomas Jacquin Creations and one in Svalbard (Norway) run by The University Centre in Svalbard. To our knowledge, this is the first such dedicated auroral all-sky camera located here in the UK however.
We will be hooking up our ZWO ASI174MC camera and all sky lens to a Raspberry Pi. The Pi will automate everything, including determining when to take the photos and being responsible for sending the images back to the AWUK team. Testing and software development is currently in progress and the camera will be deployed in time for the next aurora season – starting autumn 2016.
Not only will these images be available for our followers to view, they will also help us answer some science questions too. For example, the images will provide us with an accurate and reliable record of when an aurora was visible from the UK (or at least from Abderdeen anyway!). This record will help us in determining the accuracy of our alert levels, as well as providing us with good quality all-sky images of the aurora that can be used in scientific research. We may even be able to integrate such images into our alert system – by using image detection software to automatically determine when an aurora is visible from the camera.