What is the best time and place to see the northern lights in the UK on Tuesday?
Tuesday night could be the last chance to see the northern lights across some parts of the UK, the Met Office has confirmed.
In a very rare display, the lights were seen as far south as Kent and Cornwall over the last two nights, dazzling the night sky with vibrant reds, greens and purples. Across more northern areas of the UK, the display was one of the best seen in a very long time by BBC weather watchers.
Tuesday (February 28) may be the last chance to see the lights in the UK, although they might also be spotted into the early hours of Wednesday morning. However, increasingly cloudy skies mean the chances of spotting the northern lights over the UK for a third night in a row are “severely limited”, the Met Office said.
Grahame Madge, a spokesperson for the Met Office, said: “Over the last few nights the northern lights have been a spectacular event over parts of the UK, even including spots in southern England.
“The levels of solar activity are now reducing and this combined with increasingly cloudy skies mean that the chances of a sighting are now severely limited.”
UK Weather: Aurora Borealis: Stunning Northern Lights
However, Mr Madge added that as the natural spectacle diminishes, keen stargazers may still be able to spot a glimpse of the lights tonight from the coast of north-west Scotland.
The Met Office said late on Sunday that “a coronal hole high-speed stream” had combined with “a rather fast coronal mass ejection” leading to aurora sightings across the UK.
An aurora, also commonly known as the polar lights, is a natural light display in Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions.
The most vivid display on Sunday night was seen across Scotland and northern England, where the aurora was made up of bright greens and deep reds. There were also sightings in Northern Ireland, south Wales and Norfolk.
Here’s everything you need to know about the northern lights and how to view them.
What are the northern lights?
Also known as aurora borealis, the northern lights are usually best seen in high-latitude regions closer to the Arctic, such as Scandinavia.
The Royal Museums Greenwich said aurora is made up of atoms and molecules in our atmosphere crashing with particles from the sun. The lines of force in the Earth’s magnetic field cause the wavy patterns of light. The colours are created by different gases; the green is caused by oxygen, and the purple, blue and pink are caused by nitrogen.
The lowest part of an aurora is usually around 80 miles from Earth’s surface, but the top could be many hundreds of miles above our planet.
How could I see the northern lights in the UK?
There may be another chance to see the northern lights during Tuesday night if the skies are clear.
The further north you are, the more likely you are to see the colourful display.
If you are on Twitter, check out @aurorawatchuk, where the space physicists at Lancaster University will tweet when the aurora may be visible from the UK.
However, increasingly cloudy skies mean the chances of spotting the northern lights over the UK for a third night in a row are “severely limited”, the Met Office said.
Optimum conditions of dark, clear nights and minimal light pollution are needed to see the aurora.
“Ideally, the lights will be best viewed away from any light pollution, in remote areas, facing the northern horizon – north-facing coasts produce some of the best viewing locations,” said the team at the Met Office.