Northern lights dazzle over UK, Europe and across the hemisphere

The aurora borealis has lit up the night sky with rare sightings across the UK, Europe and the northern hemisphere.

The northern lights were spotted in Whitley Bay on the north-east coast; Essex; Cambridgeshire; and Wokingham in Berkshire. They were also sighted in Suffolk, Kent, Hampshire and Liverpool.

Kathleen Cunnea, in Great Horkesley, Essex, said: “It was absolutely stunning to see.”

Sightings were reported in Ireland, where the weather service Met Éireann posted images of the lights over Dublin and above Shannon airport in County Clare.

Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon said on Friday: “Although the shorter nights will limit the visibility window, there’s a good chance to see the aurora, particularly on Friday night and especially in Scotland, Ireland and parts of northern England and Wales.

“There could even be visibility further south if you have the right equipment.

“Those conditions could continue on Saturday night but we still have to work out some details on where exactly that will be.”

Dixon said the combination of clear skies and enhanced activity from the sun reaching Earth would improve the chances of seeing the display.

“I feel like I am having a religious experience – or an alien abduction. Not sure which,” science teacher David Boyce tweeted from England. Another user shared a photo and said Edinburgh in Scotland felt like “a different planet tonight”.

Aurora displays occur when charged particles collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere around the magnetic poles.

In the northern hemisphere, most of this activity takes place within a band known as the aurora oval, covering latitudes between 60 and 75 degrees. When activity is strong, this expands to cover a greater area – which is why displays can be occasionally seen further south.