Northern Lights to be seen over Scotland this weekend as solar spectacle hits UK

The spectacular Northern Lights are expected to be visible in Scotland this evening (May 10) as forecasters predict the solar show will be on full display.

Coronal mass ejections (CME) are expulsions of plasma from the sun that cause Northern Lights over Earth. In the last few days, the Met Office Space Weather forecast reports several CMEs have been spotted leaving the surface of the Sun and are expected to hit the Earth in the coming hours.

These CMEs are set to kickstart the aurora borealis - also known as the Northern Lights - which will be "visible to all parts of the UK" by this evening.

Northern Lights.
Spot the Northern Lights in the sky tonight -Credit:Getty

Forecasters have said this stunning light show will continue into Saturday, May 11 and even well into the morning of Sunday, May 12. Due to this, there is "potential for further Earth directed CMEs in the coming days" - meaning we could even see more light shows by next week.

The Northern Lights are a beautiful spectacle and are caused when energised particles leave the Sun and hit the globe's upper atmosphere at major speeds.

According to Royal Museums Greenwich, these particles tend to be deflected away but when they are trapped, they head north and south depending on their magnetic field.

Northern Lights.
Northern Lights.

This is what causes the beautiful green, blue and purple floating colours in the sky, and this magnetic property is also why the most of these particles are concentrated at the North and South Poles.

Royal Observatory astronomer Tom Kerss said: "These particles then slam into atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere and essentially heat them up. We call this physical process ‘excitation’, but it’s very much like heating a gas and making it glow."

The Met Office Space Weather's forecast for the aurora borealis reads: "Multiple Earth-directed CMEs were observed leaving the sun between 08 and 09 May. Due to the differing speed of the various CMEs they are expected to combine into a single larger arrival towards the end of the UTC day on Friday 10 May or early Saturday 11 May.

"Where skies are clear and provided dark enough skies, sightings are expected to develop following the CME arrival across the northern half of the UK, with a chance that aurora may become visible to all parts of the UK and similar geomagnetic latitudes.

"Enhanced activity is expected to persist, but at reduced levels through the night 11 into 12 May (Saturday into Sunday). Aurora activity may remain enhanced after this given the potential for further Earth directed CMEs in the coming days."

How can I view the Northern Lights this weekend?

According to the Met Office, the best conditions to see the Northern Lights are when the sky is clear of any clouds and dark.

So, if you want to watch the solar show, it is best to head out of the city and into a more rural area away from light pollution and face the northern horizon.

They also noted: "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."

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