Scots Offered Yet Another Opportunity to Witness Northern Lights From Their Homes


Scotland may witness another display of the Northern Lights this week, following a sunspot blast similar to the one responsible for last weekend’s spectacular show. The Met Office’s space weather department, which monitors conditions in the near-Earth environment, predicts “mainly background aurora conditions” later this week.

Last Friday, the most powerful geomagnetic storm in almost two decades resulted in a breathtaking natural light display across the country. The solar activity was so intense that the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, was visible even in light pollution hotspots such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, and surrounding central belt towns. This marked the first time since 2005 that the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a rare Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch.

Residents from various Scottish towns, including East Kilbride, Overtown, Gartcosh, Lenzie, Motherwell, Airdrie, Bathgate in West Lothian, and Crookston in Glasgow, were left in awe by the natural phenomenon. According to the Met Office, there remains a slight chance of observing Coronal Mass Ejection impacts overnight on May 17 into May 18. Coronal Mass Ejections are significant expulsions of plasma from the sun.

Such solar activity may result in a mild enhancement of the aurora, potentially enabling visibility as far south as northern Scotland. This alert is in conjunction with a notification from AuroraWatch UK, a service managed by scientists from Lancaster University’s Department of Physics. The service provides an hourly index to measure geomagnetic activity, which is used to estimate the likelihood of aurora being visible in Britain.

As of this morning, the status of AuroraWatch UK was “Amber alert: possible aurora,” implying that the Northern Lights are likely to be visible by eye from Scotland, and possibly visible from other parts of the UK. However, Jim Wild, a professor at Lancaster University, warned that the alert was triggered by a slight disturbance and may not guarantee a sighting later in the day.



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