In Brief

Northern Lights: the best pictures from around the UK

Unusually favourable weather conditions see the aurora borealis illuminate the skies as far south as Oxfordshire

Large swathes of the UK were treated to a display of the aurora borealis last night, with observers delighted by an unusually powerful light show.

Professional photographers and amazed locals alike took to Twitter as the natural phenomenon, more commonly known as the Northern Lights, illuminated skies with an eerie green and purple glow.   

While the lights are normally seen in the north of Scotland, sightings last night were reported as far south as Oxfordshire and Anglesey.

The aurora borealis, which means "dawn of the north", is most commonly seen in the Arctic Circle and thousands of tourists journey to Iceland and Scandinavia every year to see them at their most impressive.

They occur when electrically charged particles which make up solar winds pass through the Earth's magnetic field and come into contact with the atmosphere. The resulting energy given off appears as light in the sky.

"Once in a while, the solar winds are enhanced to levels stronger than normal, with particles at higher speeds," Met Office adviser Amanda Townsend told The Independent. "And on this occasion. it has connected really well with the Earth's magnetic field."

The area around Antarctica is host to a similar light display, known as aurora australis, or "dawn of the south"

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