The Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, have been creating quite a display this week. In fact, the dazzling phenomena have lit up skies much further south than usual, with sightings even reported in Tuscany, Italy, and Greece.
One lucky UK photographer managed to capture some spectacular images of the aurora, plus the Milky Way, a shooting star, and the relatively newly understood concept of STEVE. Ironically, the photographer’s name is also Steve! DIYP caught up with photographer Stephen Pemberton to find out how he captured these shots.
Stephen shot these images on the Northumberland Coast at the Howick Bath House. He says it’s his favourite astrophotography spot, and it provides him with the ideal backdrop to explore the night skies.
Stephen knew that the forecast was exceptionally good for the aurora this weekend, so he headed out with his Sony A7 IV camera and a Samyang 14mm f/2.8 manual lens. He shot with a 10-second exposure at f/2.8 and ISO 1600.
The results absolutely blew him away. “These are the best photos I’ve ever taken,” Stephen tells DIYP. “I have always been fascinated with the universe, and I absolutely love taking photos. Not long ago, I decided to try astrophotography and fell in love with it,” he adds.
Most photographers would be delighted to capture one or two of these phenomena in a photo. To get all of them in one shot is unusual.
So why has the sky been so active lately? Well, it’s not so much the sky, but the sun. The extra-powerful aurora borealis was triggered by a strong geomagnetic storm over the weekend when two coronal mass ejections (CME) hit the Earth’s atmosphere.
Who is STEVE?
But what of the eponymous hero STEVE? STEVE stands for Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement and was only discovered fairly recently. Unlike the Northern and Southern Lights, STEVE appears as a narrow, often pink or mauve ribbon of light that stretches across the sky, usually in the presence of the auroras.
Stephen’s fascination with the universe has been a driving force behind his move towards astrophotography. The Northumberland skies are particularly ideal for astrophotography and are dark and relatively free from light pollution.
Stephen feels fortunate to have such fantastic natural surroundings just a stone’s throw from his doorstep. His approach is simple: taking advantage of nature and the breathtaking vistas around him. “I just love photography and getting out with my camera,” he adds enthusiastically.