Look out for aurora lightshow

Satellite image of the SunAurora experts are advising that there is a good chance of displays of the northern and southern lights being visible tonight.

These natural lightshows happen when highly charged particles ejected from the Sun collide with the Earth’s magnetic field. What astronomers call a coronal hole has opened in the part of the Sun facing us and so we can expect a buffeting over the weekend.

There is never any guarantee about whether we will see an aurora and the further north in northern latitudes or south in southern latitudes you live, the better your chances. But for those in mid-latitudes, such as southern England, it will be worth keeping your eye on the sky.

If aurorae do occur, the Moon will be out of the picture so there is no danger of its light drowning out the show. You should get away from streetlights though. Colourful photographs of displays are time exposures and they will probably appear more subtle to the eye.

My alert to the latest possible aurorae came courtesy of the free service offered by the Society for Popular Astronomy. You could also check out Spaceweather.com.

The accompanying recent image of the Sun was taken with the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope, part of Soho, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, in space. The coronal hole is the large dark region that can be seen just to the right of centre.

Paul Sutherland

Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.
Paul Sutherland

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Paul Sutherland

I have been a professional journalist for nearly 40 years. I write regularly for science magazines including BBC Sky at Night magazine, BBC Focus, Astronomy Now and Popular Astronomy. I have also authored three books on astronomy and contributed to others.

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