Aurora Borealis: ‘Unbelievable’ Northern Lights display illuminates night sky over London

Aurora Borealis: ‘Unbelievable’ Northern Lights display illuminates night sky over London

Londoners witnessed a rare display of the aurora borealis in the capital’s skies on Friday night, with many now sharing pictures of the “amazing” spectacle.

The Northern Lights were also spotted in Whitley Bay on the north east coast, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Wokingham in Berkshire as well as Suffolk, Kent, Hampshire and Liverpool.

It was hoped the phenomenon may also be visible on Saturday night.

The best time to view the Northern Lights is usually just after sunset or before sunrise. In London, some of the best views on Friday were observed from peaks such as Muswell Hill, Primrose Hill and Alexandra Park.

“Aurora over London at midnight on Friday,” Massimo tweeted of the rare sight.

Abishek added: “The Solar geomagnatic storm triggered Northern Lights over the UK as we flew over London at midnight on Friday.”

Epping Forest conservation said: “What an incredible experience for those who witnessed this breathtaking natural spectacle last night!”

Catriona added: “Can we talk about last night….

“Incredible to see the aurora borealis with the naked eye across South London last night. I was lucky enough to see them in Tromso back in 2018, but never in a million years did I think I would ever see from my own back garden.”

And, never to pass an opportunity to reference a classic Simpsons episode, Chris Brown wrote: “Aurora Borealis, at this time of year, at this time of day, in this part of the country?”

A Met Office update noted: “Where skies are clear and provided dark enough skies, sightings are expected to develop following the CME arrival across the northern half of the UK, with a chance that aurora may become visible to all parts of the UK and similar geomagnetic latitudes.

“Aurora activity may remain enhanced after this given the potential for further Earth directed CMEs in the coming days.”

The sightings have reached as far as Ireland, with the Irish weather service Met Eireann posting images of the lights in Dublin and at Shannon Airport in Co Clare.

Kathleen Cunnea, in Great Horkesley, Essex, said: “It was absolutely stunning to see.”

The visibility of the Northern Lights was increased on Friday because of an “extreme” geomagnetic storm, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The NOAA said the G5 geomagnetic storm, which is considered extreme and is the strongest level of geomagnetic storm, hit earth on Thursday and could affect communications, GPS and power grids.

The cause of this storm is a “large, complex” sunspot cluster and is 17 times the diameter of earth, with the last storm with a G5 rating hitting earth in October 2003, causing power outages in Sweden.

The NOAA said the lights could be seen as far south as Alabama and southern California in the US.

Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon said on Friday there was a good chance for the Northern Lights to be seen.

He said: “Although the shorter nights will limit the visibility window, there’s a good chance to see the aurora, particularly on Friday night and especially in Scotland, Ireland and parts of northern England and Wales.

“There could even be visibility further south if you have the right equipment.

“Those conditions could continue on Saturday night but we still have to work out some details on where exactly that will be.”

Mr Dixon said the combination of clear skies and enhanced activity from the sun reaching Earth would improve the chances of seeing the display.

Aurora displays occur when charged particles collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere around the magnetic poles.

In the northern hemisphere, most of this activity takes place within a band known as the aurora oval, covering latitudes between 60 and 75 degrees.

When activity is strong, this expands to cover a greater area – which explains why displays can be occasionally seen as far south as the UK.