UK & World News
Northern Lights Aurora Borealis In The UK
Scientists say the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, came as low as the M4 corridor last night - and there will be an even better chance to see them tonight.
The natural light display, which usually takes place in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, may have been seen in the early hours by stargazers in southern Britain.
The northern lights appear as shimmering green waves of light when atoms in the Earth's high-altitude atmosphere collide with energetic charged particles from the sun.
The impact was weaker than expected on Thursday night, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a much stronger display later.
According to reports on Spaceweather.com, NOAA forecasters estimate an 85% chance of activity.
Joe Kunches, of The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) in Colorado, told Sky News: "The geomagnetic storm that drives the aurora structure south is beginning right now.
"We're not sure how strong the storm will be but if it follows predictions there's a good chance of seeing it in southern Britain."
The SWPC predicted that the displays measured on what is called the KP Index could rise from a reading of one, which makes it visible in northern Scandinavia, to a reading of seven, visible in southern Wales and parts of southern England.
An eruption from the sun two days ago caused a cloud of electrically charged gas to move towards Earth, fuelling the rare event.
The phenomenon triggers a geomagnetic storm, increasing the chances of viewing the aurora.
However, Professor Jim Wild, a space scientist at Lancaster University, said the orientation of the magnetic field, which pushes the aurora south is not in the best position at present, although this could change.
He predicts that it is more likely that Scotland will witness the lights. Stargazers saw the aurora from northern Scotland earlier this week.
A key factor in viewing the lights again this evening will be how clear the skies are.
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