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10th May 2024

Northern Lights should be visible for ‘all of UK’ tonight

Charlie Herbert

northern lights

Eyes to the skies everyone

A huge solar storm will mean the Norther Lights could be visible across “all of the UK”, according to weather forecasters.

On Friday and Saturday, a rare and intense solar storm will hit Earth, meaning that the aurora borealis a.k.a. the Northern Lights, will be visible as far south as Liverpool in the UK.

But according to ITV weatherman Chris Page, the storm could be the strongest since 2005, meaning that entire country could see the lights this evening (May 10) if the skies are clear.

In a post on X, Page wrote: “Although it won’t be confirmed until after the event has reached Earth, there are signs tonight’s Severe Geomagnetic Storm will be the strongest since 2005.

“This will mean it’s likely all of the UK (cloud permitting) should be able to see the the Aurora tonight if you look north.”

In a follow-up post, he gave tips on how to maximise your chances of seeing the lights.

He wrote: “Remember day length & light pollution will have an impact on your viewing.

“Top tips: it’ll look better through a camera with a long exposure, make sure you keep it steady; uou’ll need to look to the northern horizon; let your eyes adjust before viewing.”

The celestial phenomenon will be caused by at least four coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the Sun.

CMEs send out electrically charged particles from the sun which become trapped in by the Earth’s magnetic field.

Once trapped, the particles then heat up atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere by smashing into them, resulting in the bright colours we know as the Northern Lights.

In an update, the Met Office said: “Where skies are clear and provided dark enough skies, sightings are expected to develop following the CME arrival across the northern half of the UK, with a chance that aurora may become visible to all parts of the UK and similar geomagnetic latitudes.

“Aurora activity may remain enhanced after this given the potential for further Earth directed CMEs in the coming days.”

And it sounds like the forecast is promising, with the Met Office predicting clear skies across most of the UK and Ireland just after sunset.

The best time to view the lights is usually just after sunset or just before sunrise.

The upcoming solar event is set to be one of the most significant in years with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center classifying the storm as a level G4 event, the second highest level possible.

These geomagnetic storms can disrupt communications systems on Earth, and there is a risk that this event could affect radio communications, GPS and power grids over the two hours it takes to reach peak strength.

“Several coronal mass ejections (CME) will quite likely reach Earth and lead to highly elevated geomagnetic activity,” NOAA’s forecast stated. “Watches at this level are very rare.”

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