We’re sure that many of you have already heard of the Shetland cliff cams: they’re famous amongst the UK aurora hunting community for providing the first sights of aurora from the UK. For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to often see the aurora from our own back yards, the real-time HD video feeds provided by the Shetland cameras are a great way to give us our aurora fix in real-time.
UK’s top spot
In addition to being ruggedly beautiful, Shetland is quite simply the best place in the UK to see aurora. Straddling 60° latitude, it is the closest part of the UK to the auroral oval which is located around 65° latitude (the exact latitude depends on the strength of the aurora and also your longitude). It is also sparsely inhabited, with low light pollution, and has great views of the northern horizon with nothing but the Norwegian Sea between it and the artic.
There are nine Shetland webcams with three, known as the Cliff Cams, located at Sumburgh Head. If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s where we also have our Shetland magnetometer. In fact, the operators of the Shetland webcams are our collaborators with that magnetometer, providing on site support and internet access. Although the lights of Shetland’s airport sometimes get in the way, it is Cliff Cam 3 that is often the star of the aurora show.
Though we should also point out that the other webcams can give spectacular sights too, from orcas (killer whale) to nesting puffins, it’s not just the auroras that can amaze!
Uncertain times on the horizon
Originally publicly funded by the Shetland local government, the webcams are now run without public funding support. As you might have noticed some of the cameras are getting a little dated and could do with replacing and, of course, the costs of maintaining HD feeds seen by thousands (with nearly 100TB a month in bandwidth being used) are pretty high. To keep this service free at point of use, Shetland Webcams are running a crowdfunding drive that you can contribute to.
A little contribution, while completely optional, goes a long way to helping keep real-time captures such as these up-and-running:
Don’t those videos just make you want to move up north?!
Of course as we hurtle towards summer (finally!), our night-time gets shorter and shorter. This is especially true in Shetland where during mid-summer it never really gets dark! So it’s going to become harder and harder to spot aurora, even if we do get a strong solar storm. That being said, aurora have been spotted from South Ayrshire in the middle of June – so it’s not impossible by any means!
In the meantime, we recommend you use (and consider supporting) these webcams to enjoy the summer sights and sounds of Shetland while we wait for the next aurora!