Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Light show treat for sky-watchers

The Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights as they are commonly known, at St. Mary's Lighthouse and Visitor Centre, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside.

People across the UK experienced something rather special as they turned their eyes to the heavens - a rare glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Spectacular red and green lights of the Aurora Borealis lit up skies as far south as Gloucestershire, Essex and Norfolk last night, the result of a strong magnetic storm.

The lights were clearly visible in Glasgow, Orkney and Aberdeenshire in Scotland, at Preston in Lancashire and in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside.

Excited aurora-spotters took to social media to share their photos and experiences of the lights.

Alex Green, who works for the National Trust in Norfolk, said: "Wow, a life tick! NorthernLights over the north Norfolk Coast and visible with the naked eye! Just amazing!"

Richard Wilson, from Guildford, Surrey, saw the aurora from the air. He tweeted: "Great view of the northern lights from 30,000 feet over Scotland tonight. Awesome sight!"

The Northern Lights are usually visible in only the more northern parts of the UK, but a surge in geomagnetic activity last night led to them appearing much further south than usual.

The display occurs when explosions on the surface of the Sun hurl huge amounts of charged particles into space, according to the British Geological Survey (BGS).

Those thrown towards Earth are captured by its magnetic field and guided towards the geomagnetic polar regions. Charged particles collide with gas molecules in the atmosphere, and the subsequent energy is given off as light.

Geomagnetic storms follow an 11-year "solar cycle", and the last "solar maximum" was last year, according to the BGS.

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