Monday, 24 Jun 2024

‘Gobsmacked’ locals convinced they saw ‘Northern Lights’ UK city

Residents who witnessed a magnificent green glow over their city believe it could have been the Northern Lights.

Locals in Bristol looked up in awe at the swathe of green and yellow in the cloudy sky.

The images were taken on Monday night, February 20, from Shirehampton, looking towards Bristol Airport.

Jane Youden, who took the photos, told Bristol Live: “[My husband] was out in the garden, and he came back in and said, ‘look, it looks weird’.

“And I said, ‘No, that’s just the airport lights’.

“But then I went to look from upstairs, and I was thinking something struck me a little differently.

“And I called down, ‘that looks like a Northern Lights.'”

As Ms Youden and her husband had been to Iceland only last month, specifically to try and catch sight of the Northern Lights, she says she decided to take a photo as she knew the phenomenon shows up much more clearly in a long exposure image than it does to the naked eye.

She said: “I didn’t expect to take a photo and to see it. It was just a complete shock.

“We were then gobsmacked for the next hour or so as it just sort of slightly changed shape.”

Ms Youden says she took the photos on an iPhone 13, and the only edit made was to crop them.

Although sightings of the Aurora Borealis at this latitude are rare, it is possible to witness the stunning natural light show in the UK as far south as Pembrokeshire and Devon.

According to BBC Science Focus, the furthest south the Northern Lights have ever been spotted was Honolulu, just 21 degrees north of the equator, during the most intense geomagnetic storm in recorded history in 1859, known as the Carrington Event.

An Aurora forecast from the University of Alaska shows that yesterday in Europe, Auroral activity was high and suggested that weather permitting, highly active displays would be visible overhead from Tromsø, Norway, to as far south as Sundsvall, Sweden, and would be visible low on the horizon from Edinburgh.

The implausibility of the sighting has both perplexed and delighted Ms Youden, who said: “Even in Iceland, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll see it. But you’ve got to have a clear sky.

“And we didn’t have a clear sky yesterday; it was actually really cloudy.

“And [in Iceland] they take you right down into pitch back, but there was almost light pollution about as well yesterday, and it was really thick dark cloud.

“It’s just very weird. It would be nice if someone could verify it or give another explanation.”

What are the Northern Lights?

An aurora, also known as polar lights (aurora polaris), northern lights (aurora borealis) or southern lights (aurora australis), is a natural light display in Earth’s sky, predominantly seen in high-latitude regions.

The lights are caused when solar storms on the sun’s surface emit huge clouds of electrically charged particles into space.

These particles travel millions of miles, and while some that collide with the Earth are deflected by our planet’s magnetic field, some are captured by the field accelerating toward the poles.

Royal Observatory astronomer Tom Kerss says: “These particles then slam into atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere and essentially heat them up.

“We call this physical process “excitation”, but it’s very much like heating a gas and making it glow.

“What we are seeing, therefore, are atoms and molecules in our atmosphere colliding with particles from the sun.

“The aurora’s characteristic wavy patterns and ‘curtains’ of light are caused by the lines of force in the Earth’s magnetic field.”

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