Northern Lights tonight: will I be able to see the Aurora Borealis in UK, forecast and what is a solar flare?

Parts of the UK could be set for a spectacular display, thanks to a geomagnetic storm that is expected to reach Earth

A solar or geomagnetic storm is expected to reach Earth on Monday (11 October), which could mean that people in many parts of the UK could witness the Northern Lights.

The night sky spectacle is caused by a Coronal Mass Ejection, a massive burst of material from the sun which can cause a phenomenon known as a geomagnetic storm, which interferes with the Earth’s magnetic field.

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According to the US Space Weather Prediction Centre, the event could result in power grid fluctuations as well as “orientation irregularities” for spacecraft.

Where will the Northern Lights be visible from?

If you live in the north of the UK you could be in luck.

While the storm is expected to have most effect on parts of the eastern seaboard of the United States, the Met Office has said there is a slight chance of moderate class flares here too.

The Aurora Borealis seen from the northern coast of Scotland (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Scotland, the north of England and Northern Ireland could catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights on Monday night.

However, much of the country will be affected by cloud cover this evening, which may rule out any opportunities to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis.

When could they be visible?

The Met Office said: “Aurora is possible through 11th and 12th across much of Scotland, although cloud amounts are increasing, meaning sightings are unlikely for most.

“There is a slight chance of aurora reaching the far north of England and Northern Ireland tonight, but cloud breaks and therefore sightings are more likely in Northern Ireland.”

A surfer looks at Northern Lights in Utakleiv, northern Norway (Photo: OLIVIER MORIN/AFP via Getty Images)

What is a geomagnetic storm?

A geomagnetic storm is often called a solar storm and is a temporary disturbance of the Earth’s magnetosphere.

The flare - officially known as a coronal mass ejection (CME) - was observed on Saturday (9 October) on the side of the sun directly facing the Earth.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has put this week’s storm at category G2, which the agency defines as moderate in strength.

"Event analysis and model output suggest CME arrival around midday on 11 Oct, with lingering effects persisting into 12 Oct," it added, with midday in the US meaning late afternoon to early evening in the UK.

The largest solar storm ever recorded was the Carrington Event, which hit Earth in 1859 leaving an aurora visible even in latitudes much closer to the equator and knocking out telegraph systems all across Europe and North America.

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