Northern Lights possible in Scotland again this week after sun's 'final blast'

Northern lights display as seen from near Dunure in South Ayrshire, facing south on Friday May 10
A spectrum of otherworldly light seen near Dunure in South Ayrshire -Credit:Alasdair MacLeod/Sunday Mail

The Northern Lights could be visible again this week after a sunspot responsible for the spectacular displays emitted another blast.

Stargazers were treated to one of the most powerful solar storms in nearly two decades last week after a rare solar storm. The aurora borealis stunned people across the UK with its ethereal light show.

For the first time since 2005, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US issued a rare Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch. So strong was the storm that the otherworldly ribbons of light were viewable in towns and cities, and as far south as London. Scotland was to have an even more intense viewing.

And the night sky light show might not be over just yet after sunspot AR3664, responsible for the jaw-dropping Northern Lights over the UK on the weekend, has had a final blast.

The active region generated another massive solar flare on Monday, May 13, releasing intense bursts of energy and radiation into space. The effects are due to be seen on Wednesday, May 15.

Scientific website Space Today reported: "This time a long duration M6.6 flare, resulting in a full and rapid halo CME (Coronal Mass Ejection). Most of the CME is directed SW, with a component directed toward Earth. Impact is expected on May 15."

CMEs are explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s corona. They cause geomagnetic storms when they are directed at Earth.

Amazing northern lights display on Friday May 10 as seen from near Dunure in South Ayrshire, facing south
Swirling pinks, purple, orange and yellow auroras captured facing south near Dunure in South Ayrshire -Credit:Alasdair MacLeod/Sunday Mail

An M6.6 solar flare is classified as a moderately strong solar flare, able to cause radio blackouts at the higher frequencies used by commercial airliners and ham radio operators. They can also cause minor disruptions to satellite operations and navigation systems.

Space blog EarthSky says the Sun's fresh output won't have such a dramatic effect on Earth as the weekend's activity, but "at least G3 (moderate) geomagnetic storming is in the forecast", which has potential to produce significant auroral displays under the right conditions.

The Sun's activity was observed by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft. Its mission is to study the Sun’s dynamics to "increase understanding of the nature and sources of solar variability".

SDO documents the outer atmosphere of the Sun - called the corona - as well as hot flare plasma.

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