Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Northern Lights may be visible from Northern Ireland tonight

A coronal mass ejection two days ago could make the aurora borealis visible

The Northern Lights (Aurora borealis) over Lake Laberge, Yukon Territory, Canada. Shutterstock.
The Northern Lights (Aurora borealis) over Lake Laberge, Yukon Territory, Canada. Shutterstock.
The Northern Lights (Aurora borealis). Shutterstock.
The Northern Lights (Aurora borealis). Shutterstock.
Aurora Borealis: Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful natural phenomena, Auroras, also known as northern and southern lights, are natural light displays in the sky, usually observed at night, particularly in the Polar regions. The phenomenon occurs when the sun gives off high-energy charged particles that travel out into space.
Aurora Borealis: Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful natural phenomena, Auroras, also known as northern and southern lights, are natural light displays in the sky, usually observed at night, particularly in the Polar regions. The phenomenon occurs when the sun gives off high-energy charged particles that travel out into space.

The aurora borealis, commonly known as The Northern Lights, is due to move further south than normal, allowing for a greater chance to see the natural phenomenon from Northern Ireland.

A coronal mass ejection, a massive burst of solar wind, left the sun on Tuesday and arrived here this morning.

The aurora borealis, commonly seen past the Arctic Circle, will move further south for at least Thursday and Friday night.

"The best time to look is between 9pm and 1am. Northern Ireland and Donegal are the best spots, but once you have a dark sky and a clear horizon you should be able to see at least a faint glow." said Conor Farrell of Astronomy Ireland.

"We'd recommend people keep an eye on the sky for the next few nights, as it's quite strong and could last a few days"

The aurora borealis is an effect that occurs when highly charged electrons from the solar wind interact with elements in the Earth's atmosphere and follow the lines of Earth's magnetic field.

Predictions vary, but the US National Weather Service posted "you may get a chance to see the Aurora if you live in the Northern lower 48." Though predicting possible views in the US as far south as Minnesota, in Europe 48 degrees latitude is just south of Munich. UK based predictions have the English midlands as an optimistic reach.

Although the most famous and most common aurora is green, the colour changes depending on which elements are interacted with and where in the atmosphere the interaction occurs.

  • Green (most common)  - Oxygen, up to 240km
  • Blue - Nitrogen, up to 100km
  • Red - Oxygen, above 240km
  • Purple/Violent - Nitrogen, above 100km

Coronal mass ejections have an adverse effect on a number of electronic systems. This particular event caused the delay of an International Space Station supply run among other effects.

Northern Lights: How to photograph the aurora borealis 

 

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