Northern Lights: What Aurora Borealis actually means

The Northern Lights are expected again on Sunday, May 12
The Northern Lights are expected again on Sunday, May 12 -Credit:Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

The Northern Lights were visible above the UK once more in a series of dazzling natural light shows this weekend. The night of Friday, May 10, saw the most impressive Aurora Borealis displays as the Northern Lights were pictured in Kingston, Croydon and Bromley among other parts of the city.

A sunspot cluster appears to have merged to become one giant super sunspot 17 times the size of Earth which is firing out massive solar flares and plasma towards our planet. This has meant a G5 'extreme' solar storm was sent earthwards - the highest classification.

When these come into contact with Earth the geomagnetic field interacts with them producing this beautiful ethereal display of colour in our skies. The last time a G5-rated storm hit Earth in October 2003, it caused power outages in Sweden.

READ MORE: How to get phone notifications for the Northern Lights in the UK

As we look forward to another night of Northern Lights, it's left many people wondering where its official term 'Aurora Borealis' comes from. If you take the simple translation from Latin, the word aurora means 'dawn', while 'borealis' refers to the event taking place in the northern hemisphere.

Aurora Borealis seen over the UK this weekend
Aurora Borealis seen over the UK this weekend -Credit:Ahmet Fevzi Arican/Anadolu via Getty Images

As these natural light displays also occurred in Tasmania and Argentina this weekend, the technical term for this is Aurora Australis, as they occurred in the southern hemisphere.

The term aurora borealis was coined by the Italian astronomer Galileo in 1619. He used the name of the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek god of the north wind, Boreas.

Mythology goes that Aurora travelled from east to west announcing the coming of the sun, while the Ancient Greeks used the corresponding name Eos to refer to dawn, often mentioning its play of colours across the otherwise dark sky.

Likewise with borealis, the term australis refers to the god of the south wind, Auster.

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