What time the Northern Lights could be visible in the UK tonight as solar flare hits
The Northern Lights may be visible from parts of the UK again tonight, with a solar flare providing us with a rare treat.
The light display, officially known as aurora borealis, could be seen in Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of northern England on Monday night, though for many the views were obscured by cloud.
It is normally reserved for places like Iceland and the Arctic Circle, but a geomagnetic storm means the phenomenon has appeared further south.
Brits shared pictures of an “aurora glow” last night, and forecasters have suggested similar could be visible on Tuesday.
How can I see the Northern Lights?
The website Aurora Watch UK, which is run by Lancaster University, is expecting increased activity tonight between 7-9pm, then again around midnight and from 2-7am. It says the best time to see the aurora should be at around 4am.
The further north you are, the better chance you will have to see it.
There is no guarantee it will be visible at all, however, especially since much of the country is expected to be cloudy tonight.
Astronomer Tom Kerss told The Sun: “It’s quite possible that auroras will actually reach down into the north of England and maybe as far south as somewhere like Belfast or Omagh – not terribly far south.
“But they might just become visible over the sea from anybody that has a north-facing view across the north of England.”
He added that the solar flare is unlikely to cause any disruption to power grids.
“We wouldn’t expect to lose power or have any transformers explode or anything with a storm of this magnitude,” he said.
“But it is possible for solar super storms like one that occurred about 150 years ago to cause widespread disruption – we’re just sort of lucky it hasn’t happened yet.”
What are the Northern Lights?
Auroras are patterns of light that appear across the sky.
They are caused by disturbances in the magnetosphere from solar wind.
These disturbances alter the trajectories of charged particles in the magnetospheric plasma.
Ionisation then causes light of varying colour and complexity to be emitted.
A solar flare is a flash of increased brightness on the sun, which is usually seen near its surface and close to a sunspot group (areas of reduced surface temperature which appear as darker spots).
Flares are often accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME), which is a significant release of plasma and magnetic field from the solar corona – the aura of plasma that surrounds the sun, as well as other stars, and is most visible during an eclipse.
Solar flares emit radio waves, which can disturb the Earth’s atmosphere if they travel in the direction of our planet. This can cause auroras and disrupt power grids and radio signals.