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Stunning sights as Wales enjoys Northern Lights display

04 Mar 2024 3 minute read
Northern lights as seen from Vale Farm, Lower Chapel, Brecon (Credit: Danielle Herbert)

The Northern Lights lit up the night skies across parts of Wales on Sunday night.

People also reported seeing the display, called the aurora borealis, across Scotland, Merseyside and as far south as Cornwall.

According to the Met Office, the northern lights are usually best witnessed in Scotland, northern England, north Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, under certain, space weather conditions, they can be seen throughout the UK.

Charged particles

The natural light display is caused by charged particles from the Sun interacting with Earth’s magnetic field.

The colour display depends in part on what molecules the charged particles interact with.

Red and green colours tend to be hallmarks of oxygen, pink and red the signs of nitrogen with blue and purple being the results of hydrogen and helium.

Dr Minjae Kim, research fellow, Department of Physics, University of Warwick, said: “During periods of heightened geomagnetic activity, the auroral ovals expand, allowing for sightings further south in the UK.

“While auroras are more commonly observed in northern regions like Scotland, seeing them in other parts of the UK, as seen last night in southern UK, is exceptionally rare.”

Late September to mid-March is generally considered the best period for aurora sightings.

Clear, cloud-free skies in dark locations with minimal light pollution, facing the northern horizon offer the best conditions for seeing the display.

Handout photo taken with permission from the social media site X, formerly Twitter, by Simon Galston of the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, over Penmaenmawr.

Bannau Brycheiniog National Park

Dr Kim said that some of the best places for aurora viewing include: Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, an international dark sky reserve; Exmoor National Park, an international dark sky reserve in England; Galloway Forest Park, an international dark sky park in Scotland; and Kerry international dark sky reserve in Ireland.

The prime viewing times are during the darkest hours usually from 11pm to midnight, but the lights are typically visible between 9pm and 2am.

Northern lights as seen from Vale Farm, Lower Chapel, Brecon (Credit: Danielle Herbert)

Forecasting when the Northern Lights will be visible from the UK again is difficult but, according to the BGS Global geomagnetic activity forecast, no significant enhancements are expected.

Dr Kim said: “Geomagnetic activity is forecasted to remain relatively quiet for the remainder of this period.

“As a result, it might be challenging to observe the aurora.

“However, tonight (March 4-5) appears to be the most promising night for aurora viewing, albeit still not highly active.”

Check out Vale Farm Cottage for Dark Skies Tourism HERE

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Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
4 months ago

How come it is always raining when this happens?

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