Experts say that the Northern Lights could be seen from the UK Saturday evening and into Sunday as a result of solar activity.
The Sun emitted a ‘significant’ solar flare – a powerful burst of radiation – on Thursday, October 28, according to NASA.
Now, the Met Office says the flare and an accompanying coronal mass ejection (CME) – a massive expulsion of plasma from the Sun’s corona (its outermost layer) – will be responsible for Saturday evening’s display.
These events can cause disturbances in Earth’s magnetosphere. They are often concentrated around Earth’s magnetic poles.
The Northern Lights – also known as the aurora borealis – is predominantly seen in high-latitude regions (around the Arctic and Antarctic), so any glimpse in the UK is a rare treat for stargazers.
Scroll down for video
On October 28, the Sun produced a significant solar flare, peaking at 11:35am EDT. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the Sun constantly, captured this image of the event
‘Geomagnetic activity will be quiet until Saturday afternoon [October 30]According to the Met Office’s website, ” ‘Any aurora beyond that time is unlikely.
‘A significant Earth directed CME is expected at Earth later today, the 30th, lasting into Sunday the 31st. With an enhanced auroral circle highly likely, it is highly probable that this CME will arrive at Earth.
‘Sightings are likely along the northern sky (cloud permitting) in Scotland, Northern Ireland, Northern England.
“There is a slight chance that aurora may be visible as far south, as far as North Wales and the Midlands, if you look at low down on the extreme northern horizon.”
A solar flare refers to an intense burst in radiation that results from the release magnetic energy associated sunspots (areas that appear darker on the Sun’s surface).
CMEs are caused by solar flares and solar flares are very different from CMEs. Both are types solar storms.
NASA explains: “We typically see the solar flare by the photons or light it releases, at most any wavelength of the spectrum.
X-rays, optical light and xrays are the main ways to monitor flares. Flares can also be sites where particles (electrons or protons, and heavier particles), are accelerated.
‘Flares are our solar system’s largest explosive events. They are visible as bright areas of the sun and can last from minutes up to hours.
The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora borealis in the north of the Earth, is the official name for the Northern Lights. In the south, it is the aurora australis.
The Southern Hemisphere has an ‘enhanced Auroral oval. [is]The Met Office states that Antarctica is highly probable.
It states that there is a slight chance of seeing sightings in extreme southern horizons (cloud permitting) for New Zealand and South Chile/Argentina.
The Northern Lights have been a fascination for Earthlings since ancient times, but its science remains elusive.
Earth has an invisible forcefield, the magnetosphere, that protects us from dangerous charged particles from the Sun.
The magnetosphere is an area around Earth that is controlled by the magnetic field.
Science expert Marty Jopson explains: ‘Whilst it shelters us, it also creates one of the most impressive phenomena on Earth – the Northern Lights.’
The Northern Lights seen above the Zapolyarnaya-2 Vorkutaugol mine in the city Vorkuta, northwestern Russia, in April 2021
Pictured: photographer Jeanine Holowatuik posted this shot of the Northern Lights seen earlier in October 2021 over Saskatchewan, Canada
‘When the dangerous solar winds meet Earth’s magnetosphere some of the charged particles get stuck and are propelled straight down the Earth’s magnetic field lines towards the poles.
“And when they reach Earth, the strike atoms in our atmosphere, releasing energy as light.”
Problem is that disruptions to our magnetic field can create solar storms which can affect satellites in orbit, navigation systems and terrestrial power grids, as well as data and communication networks.
The European Space Agency (ESA) states that while space weather has been destructive to Earth in the past, future solar impacts could prove even more disruptive.