Stunning images of the Northern Lights captured over Ireland

The Aurora Borealis over O'Brien's Castle on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands (Cormac Coyne)
The Aurora Borealis over O'Brien's Castle on Inis Oírr, Aran Islands (Cormac Coyne)

It's rare for the Northern Lights to be seen in Ireland. Rarer in June. Rarer still as far south as Galway.

Yet that's exactly what happened this week.

These dramatic photos of the aurora borealis were captured from Inis Oírr yesterday morning by local schoolteacher, Cormac Coyne.

Auroras are produced when charged particles from the sun interact with the earth’s upper atmosphere - and were spotted unusually far south in the UK and Ireland due to a series of solar storms this week.

"We are expecting a similar reaction on Wednesday evening but the intensity of the lights will depend purely on the cloud cover at the time," said Helen Chivers of the UK Met Office.

Coyne shot his photos at around 1am on June 23, setting the 14th century O'Brien's Castle against an awesome backdrop swathed in purple light.

The photos were taken with a Canon 7D camera and an f2.8 lens, mounted on a tripod to facilitate long exposures of up to 15 seconds.

The amateur photographer teaches Science and Maths in Coláiste Ghobnait on Inis Oírr, where he lives with his family, and on Coláiste Naomh Eoin on Inis Meáin.

"I love photographing landscapes, nature, wildlife and the world around me and have recently tried my hand at astrophotography," he says.

"Living out here on the Aran Islands gives me infinite possibilities to develop my interest in photography further."

Sky watchers in the North of Ireland have the best chance of witnessing the aurora just before dawn on Thursday morning, the UK Met Office has said.

Pól Ó Conghaile, Irish Independent