Best time to watch Northern Lights this weekend as they could be visible across all of UK

The Northern Lights over Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye.
The Northern Lights over Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye. -Credit:@mrmcgrath12/Twitter/PA Wire

The Northern Lights could be visible across the UK tonight due to a severe geomagnetic storm, offering a rare treat for stargazers.

Experts have issued warnings of potential disruptions to power grids, mobile phone networks and GPS satellites due to the storm on Friday. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US has suggested that this "unusual event" could occur, marking the first such incident to hit Europe in nearly two decades.

On Thursday, NOAA issued a Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch, last announced in January 2005 when Earth was hit by the largest amount of radiation it had seen in 50 years. This warning follows a series of solar flares that occurred on Wednesday, with multiple plasma expulsions from the sun being observed.

However, this does mean there's a chance to witness a spectacular aurora - dancing ribbons of light that captivate viewers from Earth. With clear skies forecasted today, everyone in the UK might get a chance to see this natural spectacle.

Mathew Owens, a professor of space physics at the University of Reading, has advised Brits on the exact time they should be looking at the sky tonight, reports the Manchester Evening News.

He explained: " Over the past 48 hours we have seen a series of eruptions - known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) - from the Sun, and they seem to be headed right at us. Our forecast is showing six or seven of these eruptions piling up en route from the Sun to the Earth. Space is a mess right now."

"Forecasting CME arrival time is very difficult, but our best estimate is around 2am (BST, Saturday, 11 May) tonight. If you're late to bed or up before sunrise, it's worth looking north as you may see the Northern Lights. A strong aurora is probable for Scotland and northern England (and the weather looks to be cooperating for optimal viewing). It may stretch further south, but until we have those magnetic field measurements when the CMEs arrive, it's hard to say.

"What's really difficult is forecasting the likely effects of these eruptions and the impact they could have on communications and power on Earth. That's because it all depends on the strength and direction of the magnetic field inside the CMEs, and we basically have no information about that until the CMEs pass spacecraft close to Earth.

"The scale of this activity is rare, but not particularly unusual for the maximum phase of the Sun's 11-year cycle. It just so happens that Earth is in the firing line this time."

The Northern Lights, typically a spectacle reserved for those in Arctic latitudes and Scandinavian countries, could be visible even in Cornwall due to favourable weather conditions.

BBC Weather's Simon King has highlighted an increased chance of witnessing this natural phenomenon on Friday and Saturday night. "There's a been a lot of activity on the Sun which means charged particles are hurtling towards Earth (and the) aurora could be visible across the whole of the UK tonight and Saturday night," he explained.

King also noted that despite our days currently being longer, resulting in a "shorter amount of dark skies", when darkness does fall, the skies will be "clear". He added: "The geomagnetic storm heading our way will be one of the strongest in a long time, hence the significantly enhanced auroral activity."

Echoing King's sentiments, Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon said: "Although the shorter nights will limit the visibility window, there's a good chance to see the aurora, particularly on Friday night and especially in Scotland, Ireland and parts of northern England and Wales. There could even be visibility further south if you have the right equipment. Those conditions could continue on Saturday night but we still have to work out some details on where exactly that will be."