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Assistant Professor Ravindra Desai comments on possible return of Northern Lights to UK

Assistant Professor of Physics Ravindra Desai, University of Warwick, said: “A series of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the Sun’s active region (3664) caused the G5 storm and Aurora last week, which saw phenomenal displays of the Northern Lights across the UK. As this active region is currently not orientated towards the Earth, any coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from this will not cause Aurora. This active region however may persist for more than two weeks. This means that as the Sun rotates it will once again be oriented towards the Earth. So in a couple of weeks there is an elevated chance of further major geomagnetic storms and aurora over the UK.

“The reason we are seeing the Northern Lights more frequently in the UK is due to a recent increase in solar activity, typically occurring on an 11-year cycle). They are caused by charged particles from the Sun interacting with Earth's magnetic field. The dazzling colour display depends in part on what molecules the charged particles interact with.

“The best way to view the spectacle is by seeking out clear, cloud-free skies in dark locations with minimal light pollution. Usually looking toward the north is best but last week the Aurora was pushed so far south that many viewers in Scotland actually had to look south. Optimum viewing times are during the darkest hours, usually from 11pm to the early hours. It can take up to 10 minutes for one’s eyes to adjust to the dark skies and aurora also varies strongly with time so be patient if you go out and don’t initially see anything".

Fri 17 May 2024, 15:38 | Tags: Physics, Space, astronomy, astrophysics