How to see the northern lights
As a geomagnetic storm strikes the earth’s atmosphere, the northern lights often dance over northern England, Scotland and Ireland. Paul Thornton looks into this strange phenomenon and reveals the best places to see them
The aurora borealis, or the northern lights as they are commonly known, are sometimes visible across the northern parts of the UK. These are caused by large solar storm. And the good news is, providing we are lucky enough to get clear skies, you may have a chance to see them this month…
Why does this happen?
The phenomenon is caused, partly, by a solar (geomagnetic) storm, which results in a rapid release of magnetic energy stored in the Sun’s atmosphere. The charged gas particles, caused by eruptions on the Sun, interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and are propelled towards the Earths’ poles. When the particles reach the super atmosphere the energy is given off as light – northern lights. The storm increases the likelihood of witnessing the northern lights phenomenon further south than is usually possible.
Where can I see them this week?
Last time there was a major occurance of aurora borealis (northern lights) these sites in the UK proved particularly good places to watch it.
- Holy Island, Northumberland
- Lerwick, Shetland
- Tan Hill, Yorkshire
- Seaham Harbour, Co Durham
- Whitley Bay, Tyneside
Tips for observing
To maximise your chances of seeing the aurora borealis follow these simple tips:
- Try and go to an open rural area – you need a clear view of the sky, unobstructed by buildings, and where there is less light pollution from houses or industry
- Check the weather forecast for clear conditions
- Check the solar forecast for Northern Lights activity
- You’re most likely to see the northern lights between 10pm to 2am. However, if this is past your bedtime, then there is still a chance that you might catch a glimpse earlier in the evening or if it’s still dark when you wake up in the morning.
Make sure you wear warm clothes, especially if you are standing still for a long time.
FOR MORE ON STARGAZING AND WATCHING THE NIGHT SKY, WHY NOT TRY THE FOLLOWING: