How to see the northern lights tonight – and why it could become more common
The northern lights are not quite so north this week, with reports of them being seen as far down as England.
This week’s spectacle is the result of increased solar activity that interferes with the atmosphere and creates bright lights in the sky.
It is a rare opportunity for people to see them, even if they live in the more southern parts of the country and so are generally away from the event.
But that opportunity might not be so rare in the years to come. The Sun’s activity goes in a cycle, and that cycle is still on the up.
As such, the peak will come over the next two years, which will make such sightings more likely.
The Sun’s cycle leads to rising and falling activity in its magnetic field, and runs over a period of 11-years. It reached its minimum in 2020, and has been increasing ever since.
At busier times, the Sun sets out solar flares, which can be directed towards the earth. If they are, the charged particles collide with Earth’s atmosphere, interacting with the oxygen and nitrogen in the air and turning into swirling green and red colours that are visible in the sky.
If you do want to see this spurt of activity from the Sun and in our skies, doing so is easy. It is just a matter of heading out and looking up.
No special equipment is needed, and no particular knowledge of the patterns of the sky or the stars. If the northern lights are visible, then they should be easy to see across the sky and with the naked eye.
The more likely determining factor of weather and how much you see will be the solar weather and the weather down here on Earth. If there is cloud cover, then the chance of seeing it will be much reduced.
As the name suggests, the chance of seeing the spectacle – as well as just how spectacular it will be – will vary depending on where you are. The more north you are, the better and more likely it will be, but the Met Office has said that aurora could be as visible as southern England.