When Will We Next See The Northern Lights In The UK?

By Ellie Smith

6 days ago

Missed the aurora borealis? Here’s where to look next time


This month, social media has been awash with snaps of dazzling pink and green light shows, as the Northern Lights made a rare appearance in the UK not once, but twice. This was down to an extreme geomagnetic storm, which meant the lights were even visible in parts of London, which is very unusual due to its southern location and vast light pollution. But if you weren’t one of the lucky ones, fear not: the light display occasionally pops up in northern parts of the country. Here are some hotspots for seeing the Northern Lights in the UK, plus some intel on when you’ll be most likely to see it.

When Will The Northern Lights Be Visible Again?

ICYMI: the Northern Lights made another appearance in the UK on Monday night and throughout the early hours of Tuesday morning. But don’t worry if you missed them (again), it’s expected they’ll pop up again in early June.

While the Met Office’s space forecast revealed that there will be ‘no significant enhancements to the auroral oval are likely in the coming days’, the government body’s space weather expert Krista Hammond also noted that things could change over the next few weeks. According to Hammond, the sunspot region (the area where the magnetic field is about 2,500 times stronger than Earth’s) is set to rotate back towards Earth in the next few weeks, allowing for more instances of geomagnetic storms and, hopefully, chance to see the Northern Lights.

And with the sun currently in the most active period of its 11-year cycle, it’s thought that sightings of the aurora borealis could become even more frequent in years to come.

Beyond this rare occurrence, it’s notoriously hard to predict when you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights – although it’s most common to see them during the months of late September to mid-March, and it’s thought the optimum period is from November to February. The best conditions to view the lights are when the sky is dark and clear.

You can also keep an eye on the AuroraWatch website, which offers free alerts of when the aurora borealis may be visible in the UK.

Northern Lights

Unsplash

The Aurora Borealis, Explained

What Are The Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights, also known as the aurora borealis, is a spectacular natural light phenomenon which has captivated people since the dawn of time. The lights appear as a result of electrically charged particles that have escaped the sun, slamming into the Earth’s atmosphere and colliding with air molecules, which transfers their energy into light. Green is the most common colour, associated with oxygen, while nitrogen causes the pink, purple and blue glow.

What Are The Best Places To See The Northern Lights In The UK?

The clue’s in the name: you’re most likely to see the Northern Lights in parts of the Northern Hemisphere, such as Greenland and Norway. However, it’s also possible to spot them in northern parts of the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

‘In the UK, the Northern Lights can occasionally appear as a faint glow low towards the Northern horizon; their colour and detail are only visible in camera photos unless there are exceptional circumstances,’ explains Neill Sanders, Astronomer and Founder of Go Stargazing.

‘The further north you travel, the higher they appear in the sky, and at locations such as Iceland and Northern Norway, the lights appear right above you. From here, you can witness their true majesty; the colours become visible to the naked eye and their magnificent structure is revealed in a “corona” above your head.’

Northern Lights

Northern Lights in Antrim, Northern Ireland, Getty Images

Some of the most common UK spots include:

Wales

  • Brecon Beacons National Park
  • Llyn Geirionydd
  • Snowdonia
  • Migneint Moorland

England

  • Mam Tor, Peak District
  • Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
  • Lake District National Park
  • Exmoor National Park
  • Langdale Valley
  • Grizedale Forest

Scotland

  • Cairngorms National Park
  • Glenlivet Estate
  • Barra
  • Isle of Harris
  • Isle of Lewis
  • Dava Moor

Northern Ireland

  • Ballintoy
  • Whitepark Bay Beach
  • Dunluce
  • Rathlin Island