Northern lights dazzle over UK, Europe, skywatchers say, ‘Get a load of this aurora borealis’

Skywatchers enjoyed a spectacular view of the Northern Lights due to a solar storm. The event was caused by coronal mass ejections from the Sun, posing risks to technology and wildlife.

Livemint
First Published11 May 2024
In this long exposure photograph, a car drives past and illuminates poplars as the northern lights glow in the night sky above the village of Daillens, Switzerland, early Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)
In this long exposure photograph, a car drives past and illuminates poplars as the northern lights glow in the night sky above the village of Daillens, Switzerland, early Saturday, May 11, 2024. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)(AP)

Earth experienced its most potent solar storm in over two decades, unleashing a spectacle of celestial light displays from Tasmania to Britain on Friday.

According to a report by AFP, the event, sparked by a series of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) – eruptions of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun – began around 1600 GMT, as reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Space Weather Prediction Center.

This phenomenon captivated skywatchers and posed potential risks to satellite systems and power grids, with concerns about disruptions lingering into the weekend.

‘Stunning View’

The Northern Lights appear in the night sky over East Brandenburg, Friday, May 10, 2024. (Patrick Pleul/dpa via AP)

As reported by the Guardian, Kathleen Cunnea, residing in Great Horkesley, Essex, expressed her awe, stating, “It was absolutely stunning to see.” According to Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon, there was a high probability of witnessing the Northern Lights. He mentioned, “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.”

Mathew Owens, a professor of space physics at the University of Reading, told AFP that while the effects would be largely felt over the planet's northern and southern latitudes, how far they would extend would depend on the storm's final strength.

"Go outside tonight and look would be my advice because if you see the aurora, it's quite a spectacular thing," he added. If people have eclipse glasses, they can also look for the sunspot cluster during the day.

Furthermore, species like pigeons, equipped with internal biological compasses, may also experience disruption. Observations from pigeon handlers have indicated a decrease in the return of birds during geomagnetic storms, as reported by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, AFP reported.

To prepare for potential power outages, officials recommend standard contingency measures such as having flashlights, batteries, and radios readily available.

The most potent geomagnetic storm in recorded history dubbed the Carrington Event after British astronomer Richard Carrington occurred in September 1859. This event caused excess currents along telegraph lines, resulting in electrical shocks to technicians and igniting some telegraph equipment.

(With inputs from agencies)

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