Light display for Europe: Northern lights reach southern England
6 November 2023
Light display for Europe
Northern lights reach southern England
The northern lights danced across the skies of the UK and Ireland, even reaching as far south as Cornwall.
Typically confined to more northern latitudes, the Aurora Borealis graced our skies in recent days.
Across the UK and Ireland during the early hours of Sunday November 5th, the aurora borealis graced our skies, much further south than is usual, reaching parts of southern England such as Cornwall and Wiltshire.
While cloud, mist and fog skewed the view for some, skies cleared to even allow the sight to be seen by the naked eye. More often that not, especially at our latitudes, the aurora is only visible through camera equipment attuned to capture the colours.
The Northern Lights can descend over England, Wales, and Ireland during times of increased solar activity, for example during geomagnetic storms.
During these storms, the sun hires tremendous amounts of solar materials from coronal mass ejections or sunspots, which react with the magnetosphere. In this instance, a moderate G2 storm due to a coronal mass ejection was the cause.
As the solar wind approaches Earth, it encounters a shock wave known as a bow shock, where the wind interacts with our Earth's magnetic field.
Other parts of Northern, Central and Eastern Europe witnessed the spectacle too, including Germany, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, Ukraine and even Bulgaria for the first time in history.
Ladakh, in the northern Indian subcontinent, also witnessed the aurora for the first time ever earlier this year. Scientists predict that sunspot observations will grow in the next 18 months to its highest in 20 years, with more areas perhaps able to witness the magic of the aurora.
Even visible from the sky during a flight!
Despite the strength of the geomagnetic storm, living in large cities can hamper your chance of spotting the spectacle due to light pollution masking the night sky. The weather can also make for difficult viewing conditions.
Auroras are also tricky to forecast, harder than our weather. The best way is to monitor the KP Index. This is a scale which tracks geomagnetic activity and runs from level zero to nine.