Northern Lights reach the UK

Anyone in the Midlands, and further north, might have a chance of catching sight of the northern lights tonight.

Occasionally there are large explosions on the Sun and huge amounts of magnetically charged particles are thrown out into space, this is called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). If these particles travel towards Earth they interact with the Earth’s magnetic field and increase global geomagnetic activity. The increased activity releases energy into the atmosphere giving off light in the process, which we call the Northern Lights or the aurora borealis.

A CME left the sun on Sunday 15 March, arriving at Earth in the early hours of this morning (Tues). As the day has gone on the Earth’s magnetic field has become more disturbed with the disturbance reaching a level of G4 on the 0 to 5 NOAA geomagnetic space weather scales.

CME leaving the sun on 15th March 2015 courtesy of NASA

CME leaving the sun on 15th March 2015 picture courtesy of NASA


As a result of this activity the aurora is visible in those parts of the globe currently in darkness. As the UK becomes dark tonight there is an increased chance of the aurora being visible as far south as the Midlands. However due to the extensive cloud cover in Eastern areas, the best chance of clear skies is to the west of high ground. Check cloud cover in your area via our dedicated pages.

Areas such as the Northern tip of Northern Ireland, the Western Isles and parts of North Wales probably stand the best chance of seeing the aurora. See the British Geological Survey  web pages on tips to see the aurora.


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