Second chance to see northern lights after dazzling display across the UK

The northern lights could be visible in the UK for a second evening in a row, 24 hours after perfect conditions saw them light up the night sky as far south as Cambridgeshire.

The natural phenomenon was spotted across the UK on Sunday evening, including in the Outer Hebrides, North Wales, Cambridgeshire and Shropshire.

The Met Office said the lights may also be visible on Monday evening, although cloudy skies may limit those who get a second chance to witness it.

The head of space weather at the Met Office, Mark Gibbs, said: “The aurora will continue tonight but with cloudy skies across much of the UK, it may be too optimistic to expect clear sightings two nights in a row.

“Last night’s sighting saw the coincidence of perfect conditions, making the aurora visible on the north horizon in the south of England.

“If you have a clear sky tonight, head outside around midnight and have a look, but it is most likely to be visible from the west coast of Scotland.”

Mr Gibbs said that Sunday night saw the combination of a cloud-free sky, clear air, and a dim moon, which allowed members of the public to see over long distances with little light pollution, and spot the northern lights.

The activity seen last night was the result of a solar storm, which Mr Gibbs added was not unusual for this point in the solar cycle.

“What we saw yesterday was a bubble of magnetised plasma particles that had come off the sun, and they happened to be heading towards the Earth in this instance,” he said.

“It took about two days for those particles to arrive from the sun, then the particles enter the Earth’s upper atmosphere and excite atoms.

“The most common sight is green, which is the result of oxygen atoms being excited. Last night we saw some reds and purples, indicative of nitrogen atoms being excited.”

PA photographer Owen Humphreys said he had “not seen pictures of the northern lights that strong and that far south in a very long time”.

He said amateur photographers stand their best chance of capturing the aurora if they are in the north of the country, but “the most important thing is spotting a clear sky”.

“You’ve got to find somewhere with no light pollution, no moon, or a small moon, and photograph with a long exposure to let lots of light in,” Mr Humphreys added.

If you have a camera, he advised using a slow shutter with the aperture wide open at 2.8, and setting your camera on a tripod.

He added that the northern lights are not as visible to the naked eye as they are to a camera, with many new phones equipped with good technology for detecting the aurora.

“Check for a clear sky, but really just get out there and have a look,” he said.

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