Solar storm causes auroras to light up the UK skies; seen as far as Stonehenge

A double solar event consisting of CME and solar winds hit Earth resulting in a solar storm which sparked stunning auroras in several parts of the UK.

| Updated on: Mar 01 2023, 14:22 IST
In Pics: What are Northern lights? 5 facts about this stunning Aurora phenomenon
1/5 Auroras or Northern lights are shifting curtains of light in greens, blues and pinks which light up the night sky in the Northern and Southern poles. They are called Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis in the North Pole and Southern Lights or Aurora Australis in the South Pole. (AFP)
2/5 Auroras occur at the northern and southern poles, according to NASA. Occasionally, space weather interacting with Earth can cause auroras to extend even further away from the poles. These mesmerizing lights are constantly changing shape and intensity, from dim and scattered, to bright enough that they are visible for miles. (TWAN/Kwon O Chul)
3/5 According to NASA, when a solar storm interacts with Earth’s magnetic field, it results in the formation of Geomagnetic storms. The solar particles released during this interact with the various gases present in our atmosphere and form stunning Auroras which are a sight to behold, especially from places like Reykjavik in Iceland and Svalbard in Norway. (NOAA)
4/5 Did you know that Auroras form on other planets too? Yes! Not only Earth, but Auroras have been seen on planets like Jupiter and Saturn. NASA says that if a planet has an atmosphere and a magnetic field, Auroras can form if the conditions are right! (NASA)
5/5 Scientists study aurora from a variety of vantage points: below, above, and within. From below, ground based telescopes and radar look upward to track what’s happening in the sky. From above, NASA missions such as THEMIS investigate what causes auroras to dramatically shift from slowly shimmering waves of light to wildly shifting streaks of colour, according to the space agency. (NASA)
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Auroras were captured in the UK's Lake District national park by astrophotographer Stuart Atkinson. (Stuart Atkinson)

The Sun has been experiencing chain explosions in the past few days due to the sunspot AR3229 which was causing numerous solar flares to erupt and emit large amounts of solar particles into space. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Earth faced a double blow of gusty solar winds and a coronal mass ejection (CME) both of which hit the planet. When the solar storm hit the Earth it was a frightening occurrence marked by the highest speed of solar winds witnessed in several years, resulting in the most severe solar storm of 2023.

This solar storm caused a dangerous G3-class Geomagnetic storm and sparkling auroras were seen in several parts of the world, especially in the UK. Skywatchers from Scotland, northern Wales, Ireland and even southern England took to Twitter to share stunning auroras captured lighting up the sky. Even Stonehenge in Wiltshire witnessed auroras in the sky.

Northern Irish photographer, Evan Boyce shared his first experience of capturing Northern Lights. Boyce told in an email, “I first picked up a camera during the COVID lockdown and have wanted to capture the aurora ever since. It's quite difficult living in Northern Ireland, given how far south we are in comparison to where the aurora can normally be viewed.”

Stuart Atkinson, another seasoned astrophotographer captured auroras and shared his experience with He said, “"I took the images last night from a place called Shap, probably one of the highest locations in my area and far enough further north of where I live to give me a better view of the aurora than I would have at home.”

Dangers of Solar Storm

When a Solar Storm hits Earth, it sparks a Geomagnetic storm and the magnetic field lines of the Earth temporarily get disturbed, releasing extremely high magnetic energy. The energy and heat are enough to ionize oxygen present in the upper atmosphere and turn it into blue-green hues of light, which we know as auroras.

Moreover, Geomagnetic storms can disturb, or even destroy, GPS, radio communications, mobile phone connectivity, satellites and even the Internet. Also, they can create harmful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in the electricity grids.

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First Published Date: 01 Mar, 13:23 IST