Northern lights visit southern UK

Rare sightings of aurora borealis as far south as Essex and Jersey, with grand displays in Scotland and north-east England

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The northern lights illuminate the UK – in pictures

For one night only the northern lights came south, seen in spectacular displays of green, pink and crimson as far south as Essex and Jersey.

The light show by the aurora borealis on Thursday night – the result of an unusually clear, cold night combined with a strong solar storm – was also seen in many parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and across the north and east coasts of England.

As word and stunning images spread on Twitter and other social media, amateur photographers across the country rushed out into the darkness. There were displays visible from Glasgow, Orkney, Preston in Lancashire, and Whitley Bay in north Tyneside. Much rarer were the sightings in Norfolk, Gloucestershire, south Wales, Essex and Jersey

Mark Thompson, presenter of the BBC’s Stargazing Live, said it was a far more impressive display than he had been expecting, the best he had seen in 20 years.

AuroraWatch UK, run by the space physicists at Lancaster University, which posts alerts when the lights are visible in Britain, was becoming highly excited by 9pm on Thursday:

By midnight in most places it was all over. For anyone planning to wrap up warmly, pack a thermos, and head out again, the latest forecast from the British Geological Society is disappointing: “QUIET. The stormy conditions of last night have subsided, solar wind speeds are slowly dying, and a quiet weekend is expected.”

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