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Auroras in Our Area

On Wednesday the 3rd of November, Cumbria was graced with the appearance of the Aurora Borealis, a natural light display in the skies of planet Earth, though predominantly seen in high-latitude regions like the Arctic.

Across our county, stunning views were captured as the Aurora danced above parts of England, Scotland and Wales.

Stunning photography of the Aurora from Sandale Hill, courtesy of Shaunie McNeil.

What is the Aurora Borealis?

The Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, is a phenomenon caused by solar storms on the surface of the sun.

The clouds of electrically charged particles caused by the said solar storms, travel millions of miles and eventually collide with Earth, becoming trapped in the magnetic field and accelerating down towards the north and south poles.

Therefore, the appearance of the Aurora Borealis is simply molecules in our atmosphere bumping into particles from our sun.

The wavy lines of light observed in the display are caused by lines of force in the magnetic field, ultimately creating a stunning atmospheric phenomenon.

Beautiful greens and pinks on display in Harrington, snapped by Joe Marsden.

So, how do you see the Northern Lights?

The Aurora is surprisingly often visible in our area, so there’s no need to travel to Iceland to catch a glimpse!

The Physics department at Lancaster University runs a website called AuroraWatch UK, which gives us info on how high the geomagnetic activity is in specific areas and how likely it is that an Aurora will be observed.

There is also a Facebook page called Cumbria’s Northern Lights which shares stunning images and handy alerts on when activity is high!

Sightings have been reported at Derwentwater and Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, so keep an eye out for any activity, as the northern lights are absolutely regarded as the holy grail of amateur astronomy.

A very colourful sky from Maryport, photographed by Lorraine Degraff.

Green is the most common colour observed in the Aurora, but as you can see in the images above, there are often strong hints of colours like pink or violet!

The different colours are caused by the gases in our atmosphere.

The large green sections are caused by oxygen reacting with electrons, and the pink is caused by nitrogen! In some cases, there may even be neon present, which creates an orange colour in the curtains of light.

Have you had any personal sightings of the Northern Lights? We’d love to hear from you and see any pictures you’ve snapped!

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