Maghera’s Night Sky Hunter: inspiring others to look up for 10 years

Night Sky Hunter's Ballintoy Harbour after hours
Night Sky Hunter's Ballintoy Harbour after hours

Fourteen hour shifts exposed to the elements, in often freezing-cold conditions, would understandably be seen by many as ‘suffering for your art’.

But for one Maghera snapper, who goes by the name Night Sky Hunter, the challenges he faces on his many night-time shoots seem to invoke a raw enthusiasm seen only in one who truly loves what they do.

Martin McKenna and his partner take in the aurora borealis

Martin McKenna and his partner take in the aurora borealis

Amateur astronomer and professional photographer Martin McKenna has been inspiring people the world over to take a second and really look at the night-sky through his website, since 2005.

And storm-chasers, weather watchers and astronomers are just some of those whom he says log on regularly to view the self-titled “sky-obsessed amateur astronomer’s” pictures.

In an interview with the Mail, Martin has revealed what inspires him to take to the roads in search of the perfect night sky.

“I think it began in 2005,” he said, “I was just obsessed with the sky - totally obsessed.

Martin McKenna's most popular image: The Giant's Causeway lit up by Aurora Borealis

Martin McKenna's most popular image: The Giant's Causeway lit up by Aurora Borealis

“Loved astronomy, loved weather [and] thought the two made a great combination - really exciting and really photogenic and I decided that I needed some freedom to show my images.

“I just made the site myself - it took me a few weeks to do,” he explained. “I just wanted to showcase everything in the sky.

“The purpose was just to show other people in Northern Ireland the kind of really cool things that happen in our sky - that are free and are incredible

“And hopefully maybe somewhere along the road inspire them to look up and watch, or maybe take their own photographs.”

As well as capturing images of the night Martin said he also has a keen interest in astronomy, something he has been doing for around 19 years, and which has led to an honour not many have bestowed upon them.

“I’ve got an asteroid named after me as well,” he said, “it’s actually called 42531McKenna... I got that awarded to me for my work in astronomy.

“That’s official... from the International Astronomical Union - the asteroid was named after me by Dr David Asher from Armagh Observatory - one of the best asteroid scientists on the planet.”

But his all-nighters behind the lens after driving many miles just to capture the perfect storm, are what seem to have gotten the Night Sky Hunter noticed.

“I was on the television show the True North,” he told the Mail, “it was called The Longest Night and it was about documenting people who do unusual work.

“On December 21st last year for the entire night this film crew came out looking for storms on the north coast.

“It was fantastic - all night long - no sleep from dusk til dawn at the coast. We saw lightening flashing over the sea, a very stormy night, and beautiful stars.

“We drove home through snow the next day, none of us sleeping - really exciting.”