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Video captures stunning aurora borealis display from Lough Neagh

By Linda Stewart

Published 08/03/2016

The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis pictured over Northern Ireland, by Jason Murphy in Dundrod
The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis pictured over Northern Ireland, by Jason Murphy in Dundrod
The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis pictured over Northern Ireland, by Jason Murphy in Dundrod
Over Toome Bridge, Co Antrim, by Martin McKenna
The aurora as seen over Dundrod, Co Antrim, by Jason Lombard
The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis pictured over Northern Ireland, by Jason Murphy in Dundrod
The Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis pictured over Northern Ireland, by Jason Murphy in Dundrod
The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, shine over the Sycamore Gap at Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland.

These are some of the incredible images showing the pulsing Mother's Day aurora - one of the brightest sighted in Northern Ireland in recent years.

So vivid was the Northern Lights display on Sunday night that it was even captured on camera from the unlikely surroundings of a bathroom window on the Malone Road in the heart of light-polluted Belfast.

The shimmering phenomenon was visible across the province and Scotland after sunset, and was also sighted as far south as Cork and Oxfordshire.

The spectacle is caused by charged solar particles interacting with the Earth's magnetic field, and is usually only visible in far northerly regions.

A lucky combination of conditions in the lower atmosphere and in space meant the aurora was visible across large parts of the country, Met Office space weather adviser Amanda Townsend said.

"Once in a while the solar winds are enhanced to levels stronger than normal with particles at higher speeds, and on this occasion it has connected really well with the Earth's magnetic field," she explained.

Aurora chaser Martin McKenna said he wasn't expecting much as the initial predictions were for a G1 level (lowest-level) magnetic storm, but things kicked off after sunset and it ramped up to G2 level.

He was visiting relatives in Toome when he caught sight of the staggering display. "I walked out of the door, looked north and the sky was just glowing green to the naked eye. It was quite amazing. I've never seen it strong enough to be visible through the light pollution. There were green and red colours and pillars of light dancing behind the blue bridge. It was a stunning display - it took us all off guard."

Meanwhile, software designer Tam Mullen was lucky enough to have set up an old camera to capture a time lapse of the display at his home at Kinnego overlooking Lough Neagh - while also bringing another camera on a night out in Belfast.

"I was shocked to see it was visible on camera through the light pollution. It was so strong that it was visible from Belfast with the naked eye," he said.

"I think this was the strongest aurora in a couple of years - people were seeing it from Cork and everywhere. I was out in Belfast waiting for a takeaway on the Lisburn Road when I first spotted it."

Tam managed to capture images from his friend's bathroom window on the Malone Road, glimpsing the glowing green sky through a gap in the trees. Normally Belfast dwellers wouldn't have a chance of seeing the aurora because of the level of light pollution from street lamps.

"In the gaps between the trees there were pulsing bright lights with almost an alien quality. Sometimes you could see an arc of light that was almost stationary and that moving glow, on and off," he added.

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