Northern lights over UK: How to see the Aurora Borealis tonight

Increase in solar winds could trigger display in parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland

Tom Embury-Dennis
Thursday 15 February 2018 15:42
Heat map from space shows chance of seeing aurora borealis over the UK

The spectacular glow of the Northern Lights could brighten parts of the UK’s skies on Thursday night and early Friday morning.

An increase in solar winds triggered by a solar flare on the sun means people in northern parts of Scotland may be able to see the show.

Although clear skies are predicted across parts of Britain, it is recommended star gazers check local weather forecasts before heading out to try and watch any display.

Nathan Case, a physicist and volunteer for AuroraWatch UK, told The Independent chances of auroral activity were "fairly good" in northern Scotland.

He said the best time to see the display would be between 9pm and midnight, and advised star gazers to find "clear, dark skies with a good view of the northern horizon".

Matt Taylor, a BBC weather forecaster, said there was a “chance” of seeing the Aurora Borealis, “cloud cover permitting”, for people living in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, the best places to glimpse the aurora include the Highlands, Aberdeenshire, the Cairngorms and the Isle of Skye.

How are northern lights are created?

Scientists believe the Aurora Borealis is the result of charged particles from the sun being carried on solar winds and hitting the Earth’s magnetic field.

This triggers bright, colourful lights when the particles collide with different types of gas particles.

In cultures traditionally based near the poles, the lights have been associated with everything from good luck to evil spirits.

Now, the origins of these light displays have been demystified after scientists recorded showers of electrons bouncing across the Earth’s magnetosphere.

"We, for the first time, directly observed scattering of electrons by chorus waves generating particle precipitation into the Earth's atmosphere," said Professor Satoshi Kasahara, a planetary scientist at the University of Tokyo who led the research.

"The precipitating electron flux was sufficiently intense to generate pulsating aurora."

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