Belfast Telegraph

Northern Lights captured in Northern Ireland: Biggest solar flare in two decades causes stunning aurora borealis displays over UK

Vibrant shades of purple and green illuminated night skies across Northern Ireland and the UK last night, as skygazers were treated to a Northern Lights display.

The biggest spike in solar activity for around two decades meant that people as far south as the Midlands were able to witness the phenomenon into the early hours of Wednesday morning, according to the Met Office.

Residents of Bangor, Co Down and Glenarm in Antrim were among those to get a rare glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Met Office forecaster Craig Snell said: "It was the biggest solar flare that has come to earth in the last 19 to 20 years. There were reds and greens which lit up the sky."

The best sightings were in the darkness of rural areas away from the pollution in the towns and cities.

Northern Lights, also known as aurora borealis, occur following a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), which happens when explosions on the Sun cast magnetically charged particles into space.

These particles are deflected by the Earth's magnetic field but as it is weaker at either pole, some particles enter the atmosphere and collide with gas particles.

Therefore, areas closer to the North Pole, such as Iceland and Norway, are host to the most vivid Northern Lights.

In the southern hemisphere, they are known as the Aurora Australis and can often be mirror-like images that occur at the same time as in the north.

Wednesday’s show came after an unexpectedly strong CME left the Sun on Sunday, causing a severe geomagnetic storm and prompting forecasters to predict possible sightings. The CME arrived at Earth in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Read more:

Earth hit by major solar storm 

Northern Lights 'best in years'

Solar eclipse 2015: Spectacle for star-gazers but beware of dangers 

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