The northern lights, or aurora borealis, usually occur near the Arctic, but solar activity has seen much of the UK enjoy the spectacular nighttime display.
February 28, 2023
The northern lights, or aurora borealis, are flickering displays of green and red light in the night sky, as seen in this photo taken from a lookout overlooking the town of Fort William in western Scotland on February 26. .
They are generated when gusts of solar wind, a stream of charged particles ejected from the sun’s outer shell, collide with Earth’s magnetic field. While this field generally deflects most particles, it is weakest around the poles, where particles can penetrate the upper atmosphere and hit gas molecules. These molecules gain and then lose energy in the form of light particles, or photons, releasing tiny flashes of light that combine to fill the sky with swirling colors.
In recent days, magnetic disturbances in the Sun’s upper atmosphere have caused a large ejection of electrically charged particles, in an event known as a coronal mass ejection. Coupled with an especially high-speed solar wind, auroras have reached places like Anglesey in north Wales and Dorset in southern England.
There may be one last chance tonight to see the northern lights caused by the recent coronal mass ejection in the far north of Scotland, perhaps near the coastal town of Hopeman, where stunning photographs were taken on February 26. But the auroras won’t be visible as far south as in recent days because the sun’s activity is waning.
If you missed the recent show, the best places to look for the Northern Lights include Stockholm in Sweden, where these mesmerizing green auroras were captured over the city on February 27. Other good places to view the auroras include Iceland, southern Greenland and northern Finland, Norway, Canada, and Alaska.
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