Exact dates Northern Lights could return with a vengeance over Wales this week

The Aurora, Northern Lights over Crosby Beach on Merseyside
-Credit: (Image: Colin Lane/Liverpool Echo)


Skygazers have been placed on alert for another Northern Lights extravaganza in the coming days. May’s dazzling spectacles caught out many people but experts expect more displays as solar activity continues to increase.

Last month saw the largest solar flare since September 2017 and the first G5 geomagnetic storm on Earth since 2003, leading to widespread auroras around the world. As the Sun is always spinning, taking 27 Earth days for a full rotation, the sunspot group that produce the monster flare turned away from the planet.

In recent days the Sun’s active region has reappeared and it looks just as angry as before. Already it’s produced more solar flares and experts suspect one of these may in turn trigger a coronal mass ejection (CME). Whether a CME reaches Earth depends on the Sun’s rotation – and the optimum position will be between June 4-6.

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This is around one full solar rotation since the extraordinary solar flares witnessed in mid-May. “Eruptions close to this window will have the best odds of producing a geomagnetic storm and enhanced aurora display here on Earth,” Ryan French, a solar physicist at the National Solar Observatory in Boulder, Colorado, told Space.com.

Already the Sun’s solar flares have caused shortwave radio blackouts in Europe and the US. For a repeat of last month’s displays, clear skies will be needed and for this weather forecasters are undecided: the Met Office expects dry, settled conditions at the start of this week but there is a chance these may not last.

As ever, if the Northern Lights do reappear, they’ll be strongest in Scotland and northern England. So what are the chances of seeing more solar fireworks in Wales?

Dr French suspects June's auroras will not be quite as intense. “The May 2024 aurora event was truly a rare occurrence, as the first G5 geomagnetic storm since 2003," he said. "Even if high activity continues from AR 13697, the perfect alignment of conditions needed to reach a G5 level will be tough to repeat again.” Sign up now for the latest news on the North Wales Live Whatsapp community

Mid-May's aurora captured from the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon)
Mid-May's aurora captured from the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) -Credit:Jethro Kiernan/Llanberis Mountain Rescue

So perhaps a direct repeat is a stretch. But Dr French added: “Although a G5 is not likely (but not impossible) to happen again this month, G3-4 conditions would still provide a view of the aurora to millions at higher latitudes.

“This is also not our last chance. As solar activity continues to rise to its expected peak in late 2024-2025, we can look forward to many more strong geomagnetic storms. Sign up for the North Wales Live newsletter sent twice daily to your inbox

"Although another G5 storm is not guaranteed during this solar maximum, it’s certainly possible.” Here's a guide to the best way to photograph the displays.

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