‘Bloody’ Northern lights, the Aurora Borealis, appeared over Britain

6th Nov 2023
‘Bloody’ Northern lights, the Aurora Borealis, appeared over Britain

Last night, 5 November 2023, a spectacular phenomenon – the Northern light, also known as ‘Aurora Borealis’ – appeared over Britain. Residents of the UK and several other countries: Canada, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Romania, Italy, Greece – watched the sky brimming with various shades of red, for which this astronomical occurrence was already dubbed “bloody”, “apocalyptic” and “spooky” in the social media.

Solar storm brings Northern lights further south

The unusualness of this event was that it was observed much further south than usual. The northern lights most commonly occur within the geographic area beneath the auroral oval. It encompasses latitudes between 60 and 75 degrees and takes in Iceland, north of parts of Sweden, Finland, Norway, Russia, Canada and Alaska as well as southern Greenland. 

According to scientists, this happened because of a flash in the sun, which caused a powerful magnetic storm. The sun constantly sent out a flow of tiny charged particles, like electrons and protons – the solar wind. During magnetic storms, the solar wind gets very active and shoots out a lot of these charged particles in the form of solar flares and coronal mass ejections. When these particles reach Earth’s magnetic shield, they interact with it and can create different effects, like magnetic storms. Such magnetic storms make Earth’s magnetic activity stronger and can make the northern lights more vibrant and cover a bigger area in the sky.

Aurora Borealis through the lenses of social media users

Many residents of cities and towns were lucky to capture the phenomenon in their photos. In the comments on social networks, people admired the beauty of the sky: ‘unbelievable’, ‘very beautiful’, ‘we can also see it, but not so brightly’. In some places, the sky took on a vivid red hue, while in others, the illumination displayed shades of pink. In large cities, due to the abundance of street lighting, the glow was less bright but still noticeable.

When can Northern lights be expected to be seen again?

Astronomers say that the next date of such an event is unpredictable. A similar space event was already observed on 23 April – then the sky over the southern states of the USA, Canada, Ukraine and some other countries was filled with crimson and bright red shades. Then, there was a powerful solar explosion in a sunspot group called NOAA 3282. At the same time, a big burst of charged particles, primarily protons, was shot into space, and Earth happened to be in the path of these particles.

ST0NEHENGE Northern lights
Credit: @ST0NEHENGE/Twitter (X)

Thus, it is quite likely to assume that we will experience numerous auroras in the coming days, and their visibility range may extend to lower latitudes so they can be seen in different parts of the Earth.

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