Northern Lights is set to happen on May 11 and here's all you need to know

Pictured is the Northern Lights in Over Haddon
Steve Pope captured this stunning picture in Over Haddon -Credit:Steve Pope

It was a sight to behold for Aurora-watches as the Northern Lights lit up the skies on Friday. The illuminating pink and green scenes which could be viewed by people across the UK was a sight not to be missed.

Anyone unlucky enough to have missed the spectacle the first time, or those who are desperate to experience it all over again, then tonight (Saturday) could offer another chance because of a solar storm that is about to hit.

This is all you need to know to make sure the opportunity is not missed:

Where can you see displays tonight?

Those hoping to see the lights on Saturday are advised to head north and to an area with low light pollution. Sightings in southern parts of the UK are less likely on Saturday, although the lights might be visible through a strong camera lens.

The shorter summer nights limit the window during which the lights can be seen, but there is a good chance of sighting in areas across Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of northern England and Wales.

But there is expected to be an end to the clear skies on Sunday, with thunderstorms ending the nice weather.

Where have the lights been spotted?

Pink and green bands of light were seen across the UK and Europe on Friday night, with sightings in the UK as far south as Suffolk. The Met Office said it received pictures from as far away as Prague and Barcelona.

How can I improve my chances of seeing the lights?

Meteorologists have advised staying away from streetlights and using a camera to help improve your chances of seeing the auroras, with cameras better able to adapt to different wavelengths than our eyes. The lights are unlikely to be visible until it gets very dark at around 11pm.

Remote, open areas with views of the northern horizon are best.

Why does it happen?

Aurora displays occur when charged particles collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere around the magnetic poles. As they collide, light is emitted at various wavelengths, creating colourful displays in the sky.

In the northern hemisphere, most of this activity takes place within a band known as the aurora oval, covering latitudes between 60 and 75 degrees. When activity is strong, this expands to cover a greater area – which explains why displays can be occasionally seen as far south as the UK.

Why are they so visible at the moment?

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the earth was hit by a G5 geomagnetic storm on Thursday. A G5 rating is considered “extreme” and the strongest level of solar storm. The cause of this storm was a “large, complex” sunspot cluster, 17 times the diameter of Earth.

How common is it?

The last storm with a G5 rating hit Earth more than 20 years ago in October 2003 and caused power outages in Sweden. Every 11 years, the sun’s poles reverse, causing bursts of solar activity resulting in northern lights. Scientists predict the next solar maximum will occur at the end of 2024.