The Northern Lights are set to grace the skies again tonight in what will likely be a spectacular display for lucky onlookers thanks to a solar storm. A solar flare erupting on the Sun is expected to put another aurora on display, which could be spotted all across the UK.
In Britain, the famous northern lights can often be seen in Scotland, but those in southern England very rarely get to catch a glimpse.
However, with strong geomagnetic storms on February 27 and the weaker G2-ranked storms possible on February 28, the northern lights could be spotted from the Shetland Isles in Scotland all the way down to Kent.
A solar storm -also known as a coronal mass ejection – occurs when the Sun ejects huge quantities of protons and electrons. These then cause a plume of cosmic rays to head towards Earth.
When they reach Earth, solar storms can cause impacts on the magnetic field, triggering phenomena known as aurora or the Northern Lights.
On Sunday night, lucky spectators across Northern Ireland, south Wales and Norfolk, and elsewhere caught sight of an aurora. But more spectacular displays for sky-gazers could be in order if skies are clear tonight.
Photographer Gary Pearson, who watched the display from Brancaster Staithe in Norfolk on Sunday, told BBC News: “We had a fantastic showing from the northern lights last night.
“The aurora was clearly visible to the naked eye, though it was the long exposure taken by the camera that picked up the extremely vivid colours.”
Nick Harvey, wrote on Twitter: “The #NorthernLights from Crowborough, East Sussex are taking my breath away.”
The Met Office also tweeted a series of pictures taken by members of the public which captured the light phenomenon in North Uist in Scotland, North Wales, Cambridgeshire and Shropshire.
It posted: “A coronal hole high-speed stream arrived this evening combined with a rather fast coronal mass ejection leading to #Aurora sightings across the UK .”
But if you missed the chance to catch a glimpse on Sunday night, you could be in with a treat tonight.
The Met Office added in a separate post: “There is a similar expectation for later on February 27 as another coronal mass ejection arrives and there is a chance of conditions strengthening to G3/Strong geomagnetic storm levels.
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The best viewing times
“Aurora is once again possible to similar latitudes, perhaps as far south as central or southern England should any larger storm periods occur.”
AuroraWatchUK, run by Lancaster University’s Department of Physics, is a real-time status tool that was on red alert last night. This meant there was a high likelihood of the aurora being visible from the UK.
The tool indicates at what time the lights are most likely to be seen in Britain, meaning it could be wise to check the site if you are eager to spot the Northern Lights tonight.
Most visible in a clear and dark sky, you will likely have to wait until after 5pm or 6pm, when the sun typically sets. But the best views could come at around midnight, normally the darkest hours of the night.
Royal Museums Greenwich states that “dark and clear nights, preferably with little light pollution, offer the best chance of seeing the aurora.”
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