The sight of the Northern Lights across the British sky lighting up the night

Northern Lights across the British sky: The northern lights lit up the skies on Sunday night, with the Met Office confirming sightings across the UK.

The Met Office said the lights had been seen across Scotland, were clearly visible from webcams in Shetland, and sightings were reported in some parts of central and eastern England.
The Met said on Sunday that the best chance of seeing the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, was in Scotland, but enthusiasts “can see the phenomenon as far south as central Wales and England”.

Professor Dan Pollack, from the University of Warwick’s Department of Physics, said the phenomenon is caused by “the interaction of particles coming from the Sun, the solar wind, with the Earth’s atmosphere – which are driven to the polar regions by the Earth’s magnetic field.”

Northern Lights across the British sky
Jamie McBean took a picture of green, red and magenta lights illuminating the skies in Herne Bay. Picture: Jamie McBean

“It’s actually a bit like iron filings and the magnetic field of a bar.
When sunspots are present, the solar wind contains more particles because these are areas on the Sun’s surface where the magnetic field interacts with the Sun’s plasma, and particles can be released.
When the particles are directed into the Earth’s atmosphere, they interact with molecules and have distinct colors (for example, oxygen molecules produce green light, nitrogen light red, etc.) and light emission patterns that look like curtains or spotlights.

“These shapes change rapidly on minute/second-time scales.”

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