In a rare treat, the Aurora Borealis – also known as the Northern Lights – graced southern parts of the U.K.
The stunning cosmic lights were spotted across Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland on the evening of Sunday, March 6. Some reports even came from as far south as Oxfordshire, less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of London.
The dramatic Aurora Borealis light show is caused by an interaction between the charged particles from the Sun’s “solar winds” with Earth’s magnetic field. As the solar winds converge on our planet, they distort Earth’s magnetic poles and the charged particles enter our atmosphere. Their charge excites the gases in the Earth's atmosphere, causing them to release this glow – which, depending on the conditions, can occur in red, green, blue, pink, purple, ultraviolet, and infrared.
The Northern Lights are predominantly seen at high-latitude areas such as the Arctic and Antarctic. They’re often associated with Iceland and Scandinavia, but occasionally frequent the northern tips of Scotland. However, to be seen this far south, it requires some very fortunate circumstances.
“When the Sun has a major geomagnetic event, the flux of particles is so high that they can penetrate the Earth's atmosphere at lower latitudes, which is why in England it is only after these storms that we can see the lights," explained the University of Lancaster's Professor Mike Kosch to the BBC.
The clear skies over much of the U.K. also provided the perfect stage for this beautiful geomagnetic storm to be seen.
It's not unheard of to see the Aurora Borealis in southern parts of the U.K., with sightings as far south as Kent and Cornwall reported in the past. In 2014, the lights were even seen in Jersey, a small island that lies on the north coast of France.
Another shot of the aurora from Oxforshire, 30s later. 20s@1600, 18mm lens. Saturation and contrast adj. pic.twitter.com/Pqq1zMsE59
— Mark McIntyre (@markmac99) 7 March 2016
— PAUL KINGSTON (@PaulKingstonNNP) 7 March 2016
— Steve & Karen (@TheSandK) 7 March 2016
— Nigel Clegg (@nigelcleggphoto) 6 March 2016
A shot of the Northern Lights in Ballykelly, Northern Ireland, on March 6, 2016. Image credit: john.purvis/Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)
Main image credit: Kris Williams/Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)