This week photographer Rónán McLaughlin snapped a spectacular photo taking in the Northern Lights, the Milky Way, Inishtrahull island, at Malin Head as well as two generations of his own family.
McLaughlin, who is originally from Malin Head, County Donegal, was delighted to get such a special shot. He told IrishCentral, “I have seen the Aurora on numerous occasions over the years but never managed to get a chance to photograph of it.”
The Northern Lights are commonly visible in the northern parts of Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Iceland and northern parts of Scandinavia, but during the winter months the Aurora Borealis is visible on several occasions in Irish skies, particularly those over northern Donegal in the northwest of the country.
Early this week, as McLaughlin said himself, “Lady luck shone a little and we were lucky to catch this Aurora burst just before midnight Irish time.”
Astronomy Ireland has said this year and next mark the prime years of the aurora's 11-year cycle, resulting in more sightings of the Northern Lights in Irish skies.
McLaughlin described his own magic shot. He said, “I've been lucky to get some nice photos over the years but this one is special.
“Firstly, my son, Oisín, is with me. Secondly the lighthouse you see on the right hand side of the picture is on the island of Inishtrahull. This is where my great-great-grandmother was born. So to capture the Milky Way, the Aurora Borealis, with Inishtrahull, and two generations of McLaughlins viewing made it very special indeed.”
The Northern Lights occur in the sky when a mass of particles and magnetic fields ejected from the Sun hit the Earth's atmosphere causing a geomagnetic storm. According to Northern Lights Centre, the bright lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun's atmosphere. Variations in color are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding.
Researchers have established that auroral activity peaks roughly every 11 years and right now we’re in the midst of one of these peaks.
To see more of McLaughlin’s photos visit his site, www.ronanmclaughlin.com, or visit his Facebook or Flickr pages.
Here are some other breathtaking shots of the Northern Lights photographed in Northern Ireland: