Solar storm set to shower UK with Northern Lights on Wednesday night


For the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights, experts recommend looking out for “clear, dark skies free of light pollution”.

Northern lights seen from Lapland

A minor solar storm will result in increased magnetosphere activity on Wednesday, bringing with it the potential for supercharged Northern Lights.

The display is not expected to reach the heights of one last September, which followed the most powerful solar flare in a decade.

In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has assessed the primary impact area as everywhere above 60 degrees latitude.

While this excludes the majority of England, the Aurora Borealis could be seen at this time of year over Wednesday night in the northernmost part of the country, localised entirely within the polewards part of the sky.

NOAA also warned that the electromagnetic storm could result in weak power grid fluctuations, and could also have a minor impact on satellite operations.

This stunning timelapse of Aurora from space was filmed by astronaut Paolo Nespoli.
Astronaut Paolo Nespoli took this stunning picture of Aurora Borealis from space

Speaking to Sky News, Daniel Billett, a PhD student in Space and Planetary Physics at Lancaster University, and a member of the AuroraWatch UK team which sends updates to people expecting Northern Lights.

“Today and tomorrow has been forecast for a G1 minor geomagnetic storm by the North Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“This is due to fast streams of energetic particles finally making their way to Earth from the sun.

“Over the next couple of days, there’s a very real chance we could see the aurora in places around the UK.

“We expect a storm of this magnitude might be visible in Scotland and parts of northern England and Ireland, but could extend further south if it’s stronger than predicted.

“For the best possible chance to see the aurora, look out for clear, dark skies free of light pollution. Northward facing coastlines and high up rural areas tend to be good spots for aurora spotting.”

The Northern Lights as seen in Newtongrange in Midlothian. Pic: Fiona Horne
As seen in Newtongrange in Midlothian last September. Pic: Fiona Horne

Last September, two powerful solar flares caused brilliant Northern Lights in higher latitudes and disrupted radio communications over large areas of Earth.

This week’s solar storm did not originate from a solar flare, however, but from a coronal hole – a region where the surface of the sun is dark.

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Coronal holes are associated with “open” magnetic field lines and are where the high-speed solar wind originates as the holes allow particles to stream out into space.

A wave of these particles are expected to reach Earth on Wednesday and give the Northern Lights a boost in electromagnetic activity.

This stunning timelapse of Aurora from space was filmed by astronaut Paolo Nespoli.

The Northern Lights as seen in Newtongrange in Midlothian. Pic: Fiona Horne


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