Parts of UK could see northern lights tonight, says Met Office

Aurora borealis forecast to be visible across huge swathes of the North Atlantic and Scandinavia

Andy Gregory
Tuesday 19 December 2023 21:13 GMT
Simon Calder see the Northern Lights

Skygazers in the UK could be treated to a display of the northern lights on Tuesday night, the Met Office has said.

The aurora borealis are likely to illuminate parts of the night sky across the North Atlantic Ocean and Norwegian Sea through much of the night, according to the national forecaster.

The aerial phenomemon is forecast to potentially be visible across huge swathes of Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Sweden and Finland and Russia at varying points between around 6pm and 6am the following day.

As a result, residents in the north of Scotland, including in Orkney and Shetland, may catch a glimpse of the colourful aurora, with the best chance of spotting them in the hours before midnight.

The phenomenon is caused by atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere colliding with particles from the sun. The charged particles are a result of a phenomenon known as coronal mass ejection – which is a sudden release of magnetised plasma from outermost part of the sun’s atmosphere.

The aurora’s characteristic wavy patterns and curtains of light are caused by the lines of force in the Earth’s magnetic field, according to the Greenwich Royal Observatory.

Posting a graphic showing where the aurora is expected on Tuesday, the Met Office wrote on Twitter/X: “Get your cameras ready as you may spot the aurora tonight in the north of Scotland. That’s if you manage to dodge any overnight showers.”

The Met Office has warned of “plenty of blustery showers across the UK” on Tuesday evening, which are falling as hail in Scotland’s far north, and as snow over higher ground. Much of England and Wales had been blanketed by a thick band of rain which finally cleared southeastwards at around 6pm.

The aurora borealis, appeared over Bamburgh Lighthouse, in Northumberland, last month
The aurora borealis, appeared over Bamburgh Lighthouse, in Northumberland, last month (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Forecasters told The Independent this week that parts of the UK will likely experience a white Christmas, preceded by gale-force winds of up to 80mph on Thursday, when meteorologists have issued a weather warning.

However, the forecaster stressed this does not necessarily mean the country will be covered in blankets of snow over Christmas, and warned people not to get their hopes up for a “picture perfect white landscape”.

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