In Brief

How can I see the Northern Lights from the UK?

The aurora borealis could be visible tonight across parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales

People in the north of Britain were treated to a rare glimpse of the aurora borealis last night, and meteorologists believe the prospects of seeing the natural phenomenon again this evening are strong.

So how can you see the Northern Lights?

ITV recommends the following six steps:

  • Go somewhere dark, preferably away from street lights and houses.
  • If possible, go somewhere high, such as a hill or mountain, to eliminate light pollution.
  • Check in all directions. Most geomagnetic activity is likely to occur in the north, but the aurora may be south of you, so survey the whole sky.
  • Before you go out, check the local weather forecast for clear skies.
  • The optimal viewing times for the Northern Lights are between 10pm and 2am, but it may also be possible to see them if you get up in the morning before dawn.
  • Wrap up warm – many places in the north of Scotland are expected to see temperatures of just 11 degrees today, dropping to single digits overnight.
Where will the Northern Lights be visible?

Last night the Northern Lights were visible across parts of Northern Ireland, Scotland and northern England, the Weather Network says. But some people as far south as the north Midlands and the middle of Wales also reported seeing the lights.

Tonight, people in the far north of Scotland are the most likely to see the aurora, but it may be visible further south as well.

According to the Weather Network: "Skies should become fairly clear this evening across much of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England, although cloud will increase in the north-west through the night."

What are the Northern Lights?

Auroras are natural electrical phenomena that are characterised by undulating patterns of red, white and green lights. They tend to be at their most intense near the North and South Poles.

The phenomena are named after the Roman goddess of dawn. The Northern Lights are known as the aurora borealis and the Southern Lights are called the aurora australis.

The effect is caused by energy from the sun and "fuelled by electrically charged particles trapped in Earth's magnetic field," Nasa says.

Why are the Northern Lights presently so intense?

The lights are particularly intense at the moment because of a large coronal mass ejection (CME) – or 'explosion' – on the surface of the sun a few days ago that emitted a great deal of electrically charged energy.

When CMEs are directed towards the earth, "stunning auroras can be seen much further south than normal", the Weather Network notes

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