Highlands & Islands

'Increased' chances of seeing Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis
Image caption The aurora is caused by the interaction of solar wind and Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere

Chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis will increase over the next 48 hours, according to space weather watchers.

British Geological Survey, Aurorawatch UK and US body Space Weather Prediction Centre have all reported heightened opportunities of spotting the aurora.

It is due to recent activity on the surface of the sun.

The aurora is caused by the interaction of solar wind - a stream of charged particles escaping the Sun - and Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere.

When weather conditions are favourable, Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland offer some of the best places to observe the aurora or Northern Lights as the phenomenon is often known.

BBC Weather has said the aurora could be visible from east Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England on Wednesday night, adding that it would be "fairly cloudy elsewhere".

'Fast wind'

British Geological Survey (BGS) said: "A very large, centrally located coronal hole has rotated around the Sun's surface so that it is now facing the Earth.

"This means that a stream of fast solar wind is currently hitting the Earth's magnetic field and causing an increase in geomagnetic activity."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Aurora borealis photographed earlier this week from near Bamburgh Lighthouse in Northumberland

BGS said on the previous solar rotation, which occurred 28 days ago, this coronal hole produced a moderate geomagnetic (G2) storm.

There were sightings of the Northern Lights across the north of the UK at that time.

BGS said: "Since then it has grown in size and now covers more of the equatorial region of the Sun.

"The geomagnetic field is also already disturbed by a previous coronal hole which has been causing storm conditions over the last few nights.

"This means we are anticipating stormy conditions again, with a chance for some isolated storm G3 periods."

G3 is the classification for "strong" storms.

The stormy conditions are forecasted to peak on Thursday.

BSG added: "Assuming clear dark skies, there is an increased chance of seeing the aurora overnight Wednesday and Thursday, particularly for those in Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland."

Sightings of the Northern Lights have already been made this week from the Isle of Lewis, Aberdeenshire and Northumberland.

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