The Northern Lights: When and Where to See Them in the UK

The Northern Lights: When and Where to See Them in the UK

The enchanting Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, are expected to grace the skies of the United Kingdom again soon, thanks to a significant solar event. This phenomenon, which mesmerizes spectators with its dazzling display of colors, could be visible much sooner than anticipated.

The Cause: A Massive Solar Storm

A recent, massive solar storm on the Sun's surface has set the stage for this potential spectacle. This explosion is the largest recorded in the current 11-year solar cycle. Occurring on Tuesday, 14 May, it surpasses the solar event that brought breathtaking aurora displays across the UK and mainland Europe previously.

To grasp the magnitude of this solar explosion, imagine an area on the Sun's surface fifteen times wider than Earth itself. Although the blast occurred on a part of the Sun not directly facing Earth, its effects could still influence our planet.

The Northern Lights: When and Where to See Them in the UK

Potential Impacts

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States, while we might not experience a significant direct impact from this solar flare, geomagnetic effects are still possible. Such impacts can disrupt infrastructure, like GPS systems and power grids, as evidenced by a recent solar flare causing power issues in the US.

NOAA's brief statement highlighted the Sun's ongoing volatility, following the X8.7-class flare. This indicates that further solar activity could have more implications for Earth.

The Northern Lights: When and Where to See Them in the UK

Expert Insights

Jim Wild, Professor of Space Physics at Lancaster University, explained that repeated Northern Lights displays are unlikely due to the solar ejections currently being flung away from Earth. However, hope remains. 

Dr. Ravindra Desai, Assistant Professor of Physics at the University of Warwick, noted that the Sun's volatile region, though now not facing Earth, will soon reorient. He emphasized that the consequences of the solar flare could still affect Earth, potentially causing radio blackouts and damage to satellites.

The Northern Lights: When and Where to See Them in the UK

When to Expect the Northern Lights

Dr. Desai provided a hopeful timeline for those eager to witness the Northern Lights in the UK. He mentioned that active region 3664 might persist for two weeks or longer, eventually facing Earth again. This means that around 28 May, there is an elevated chance of significant geomagnetic storms and aurora displays over the UK.

As we approach this window of opportunity, experts will likely refine the specific timing for when the Northern Lights might be visible. For now, mark your calendars and keep an eye on the night sky towards the end of May.


The prospect of seeing the Northern Lights in the UK is an exciting one, driven by the recent massive solar storm. While the exact timing and visibility depend on several factors, the end of May offers a promising period for potential aurora displays. Stay informed with updates from experts, and prepare to witness one of nature's most spectacular light shows.

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