Aurora visible over Northern Irish skies
- 9 October 2012
- From the section Northern Ireland
The aurora borealis paid a visit to Northern Ireland's skies again on Monday night.
The aurora, also known as the Northern Lights, was observed at different points with some spectacular photos being captured.
The lights are expected to make another appearance on Tuesday night although weather conditions may not be as good.
There will be some clear skies but more cloud is likely to move in from the south during the early hours.
Photographer and amateur astronomer Martin McKenna, from Maghera, often goes searching for the aurora or chasing storms and on Monday night he captured some amazing images.
"My girlfriend Roisin and I went on an aurora chase after dark to the County Antrim coast and watched the beautiful show from the surreal Downhill Beach," he said.
"I photographed the display also over Mussenden Temple and Downhill estate, we could see the ocean turning green as it reflected the intense green auroral arc.
"We witnessed several outbursts of multiple beams which were a joy to watch."
Paul Evans from Larne was also out chasing the aurora and managed to grab an image in Ballygalley, County Antrim.
Goddess of the dawn
So what exactly causes the Aurora Borealis?
The light is generated when energetic particles streaming out of the sun collide with atoms high up in our atmosphere.
During periods of intense solar activity these geomagnetic storms may extend towards the Earth's surface and when that happens we can see the diffuse glow of the aurora.
In the northern hemisphere the natural light display usually appears in high-latitude regions closer to the north and south magnetic poles such as in Iceland or Scandinavia.
At certain times of the year, particularly around the equinoxes, the flow of charged particles from the sun peaks.
When this happens the lights can sometimes be seen with the naked eye much further south than normal - particularly around coastal areas where there is less pollution from artificial light sources. This was the case on Monday night.
The northern lights were named after Aurora, Roman goddess of the dawn, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by the French polymath Pierre Gassendi in the 17th century.
If you want alerted when you can see the aurora for yourself check SpaceWeather.com or AuroraWatch for details.