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'You'll never get the same picture twice': Wexford man sees the northern lights in back garden

A WEXFORD MAN caught the pictures of a lifetime when he returned home from a 15-hour shift to see the Northern Lights in his back garden.

Gary O’Flynn, who lives Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, has been lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis twice in the last two weeks and managed to capture some pictures of his experience when doing so.

Although clouds can often obscure the breathtaking green, and sometimes pink, blue and purple aurora borealis, on a clear night and with the right conditions, the lights can be seen from multiple locations around the country.

O’Flynn told The Journal he uses an app called ‘Glendale’ to track his chances seeing the sky show and has been tracking their whereabouts for the last few years.

Two weeks ago, O’Flynn managed to catch a glimpse of the lights – albeit, through the lense of his camera – and caught some images of the event to remember his achievement.

However, after returning home from a 15-hour work shift on Sunday, the app had alerted that the status to see the lights was ‘Red’ – meaning conditions were clear and there was a high chance to see the Aurora again.

And while there’s never any guarantee you’ll see the natural light show, the coming equinox – when the sun crosses the earth’s equator – can give Ireland a better chance than normal.

IMG_9784 Gary O'Flynn Red appears in the sky during the Northern Lights showing up in Enniscorthy. Gary O'Flynn

While O’Flynn said it is very rare that you can see the lights with the naked eye, the conditions in the Earth’s magnetic field and the tilt of the planet during the equinox makes conditions better explains David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine.

Moore said: “If the sun’s very quiet that day, then we’re not going to get the aurora, but even if there’s a modest explosion on the sun during the equinox, it can lead to a display of the aurora.”

“The equinox increases the chances, rather than guarantees you seeing it,” he added.

Moore told The Journal that he has seen the lights multiple times in Ireland and has previously led four tours to the arctic circle in Norway to show hundreds of people the aurora up close.

Astronomy Ireland is a non-profit group for members of the public who are enthusiastic about space. The group also hold events, such as their Saturn Watch event, happening tonight in Blanchardstown, Co Dublin.

O’Flynn said “everything has to be right” to get a chance to see the lights, and regularly will check the percentage of the moonlight, how clear the sky will be at night and uses the app to estimate if he will get a better chance at seeing the aurora.

IMG_9785 Gary O'Flynn Green, white and orange lights in the sky during the Aurora in Enniscorthy. Gary O'Flynn

He said he’s found between September and March to be the best period for people in Ireland to see the lights, but added that the best chance to see them clearly would be through the lense of a good phone camera or DSLR camera.

BBC News reported yesterday that over the coming nights, with the right conditions, those in Northern Ireland might get the chance to see the lights for themselves.

Asked if he was going to head out to see the lights again, O’Flynn said a friend once told him: “You’ll never get the same picture twice.”

That being said, O’Flynn will still continue to monitor the skies and be on the look-out for a chance to capture some pictures of the Northern Lights once again.

Moore says Astronomy Ireland runs an aurora alert service for Ireland – posting every afternoon what’s going to happen in the sky that night, including the aurora.

He says the aurora can be seen at any time of the night, sometimes all night, sometimes for just an hour or two, and adds: “The sun goes through cycles of activity every 11 years, and it’s due to peak in 2025 – so the next few years are actually very good for seeing the northern lights.”

Includes reporting from Press Association.