Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Skywatchers set for Northern Lights

The celebrated Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, has its best chance of being seen in more than a decade

One of the world's most famous and stunning solar phenomena is eagerly expected over skies across Ireland in the coming weeks, stargazers have said.

The celebrated Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, has its best chance of being seen in more than a decade because of a peak in the sun's activity.

The celestial light show appears as ghostly, wispy rays of greenish and whitish colours dancing across the heavens.

It has captured imaginations across the globe since time began.

Brendan Alexander, an astronomer in Co Donegal, said the further north and away from city lights people are, the better chance they have of seeing the dream-like spectacular.

"It's definitely worth seeking out," he said.

"It's an event that - especially on these shores - is so rare.

"But we are lucky to live just north enough to experience it - any country further south than us won't be able to see it."

The sun has a "heartbeat" every 11 years or so - known as the solar cycle - and when it erupts, charged particles blast into space and are sucked into the North Pole.

These explosions react with the earth's atmosphere, sparking great swathes of coloured light over the night skies, known for centuries by native north Americans as the Dance of the Spirits.

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