Aurora Borealis sweeps the North East skies

A SPECTACULAR light show swept across the North East sky - and there could be another chance to see it again.

Aurora Borealis, photograph taken by Andy Smythe

A SPECTACULAR light show swept across the North East sky - and there could be another chance to see it again.

Star-gazers headed to the darkest areas of the North East’s countryside to enjoy the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, which were visible from Northumberland to County Durham.

And they were rewarded with a first-hand view of the haunting phenomenon, not normally seen in the region.

Adrian Jannetta, chairman of the Northumberland Astronomical Society, enjoyed watching the lights on Sunday, and said there was a chance they would be on show again tonight and Wednesday, although it can be hit and miss.

He said: “The pictures don’t do it justice – it was amazing. It was great watching it, I had a look outside and saw a slight tinge of green, so I jumped in the car and drove a few miles out of Morpeth and watched the colours change.

“People are always surprised you can see the Aurora this far south, so they don’t look for it. But on a clear night you can have a look.”

The 38-year-old from Morpeth, who works as a maths tutor for INTO Newcastle University, said NASA sends out alerts about solar activity to let people know when it is most likely to occur.

The Aurora Borealis occurs when electrons from solar wind interact with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen in the earth’s atmosphere.

The winds follow the lines of the earth’s magnetic force, passing through highly charged electrical and magnetic fields. It is usually confined to the arctic circle but can be seen further south.

The colour of the aurora depends on which atom is struck, and the altitude.

Mr Jannetta, who has been interested in astronomy all his life and has been involved with the group since 2000, said it is not as rare as people think to see the Northern Lights in the North East.

He saw the phenomenon regularly between 2000-2004, and although it has not been so active since, it is due for a comeback. It is best to drive away from areas of light pollution.

“The solar cycle sees sun spots rise and fall, and 2013 is the year of the maximum activity,” he said. “If it’s a really big solar storm it’s worth a look out.”


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