How To View The Northern Lights In The UK This Evening

This evening, you’ll be able to view the Northern Lights In the UK as a solar flare from the Sun reaches into our atmosphere.

It hasn’t been too long since we’ve seen the Northern Lights in the UK, with the last appearance of the beautiful spectacle back in November 2017 where they could be seen as far south as Shrewsbury. This year’s occurrence, however, won’t be nearly as bright considering that the Aurora Borealis overall is moving towards a dimmer part of its cycle.

Northern Lights In The UK
By Nick Russill from Cardiff, UK (Northern Lights, Greenland) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Tonight, the best areas to view the Northern Lights in the UK are Northern Ireland and the north of Scotland.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has stated that the Aurora Borealis, more commonly referred to as the Northern Lights, will reveal themselves as a “massive coronal mass ejection” reaches our planet.

A massive coronal mass ejection is a fancy name for a solar flare and refers to the release of plasma that hits the magnetic field of our planet and causes the Northern Lights to emit light and be more visible even far distances away from their location.

BBC Newscaster Matt Taylor explained the Northern Lights in more detail, stating

“The Sun of course is not a solid object. Fluctuations and all that, we get sort of flares off…That sends highly charged particles right to the atmosphere towards us and as it reaches our atmosphere it interacts with oxygen and nitrogen molecules and that’s what causes the colour…The Sun gives all of those molecules a little bit of a tickle and they shine different colours of light.”

If you’d like to see the Northern Lights in the UK, the best way to see them (provided you’re within the areas of Northern Ireland and north Scotland) is to get as far away from any sort of light pollution. Additionally, moving as far north as possible will give you the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights in the UK considering the Aurora Borealis’ location at the North Pole.

In order to view the Northern Lights in the UK, you’d be best served by stepping outside between the hours of 9pm and 1am when the skies are at their darkest. It’s also important to have the best view of the northern skies and get as far away from the city as possible. In many cases, heading to the top of the hill or perhaps to the beach would be preferable. If you can happen to get to northern Scotland, you’ll have the best view possible of the Northern Lights in the UK.

Keep in mind that the Aurora Borealis is on an 11-year cycle, waxing and waning from bright to dim. Over the next couple of years, it will get increasingly more difficult to see the Northern Lights in the UK. So taking the time to step out this evening near the end of the evening might give you a chance to see a relatively rare occurrence of an easily viewable spectacle.