Northern Lights seen in Liverpool skies

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Brilliant green lights visible over Merseyside last night. © Carl Ryan

Brilliant green lights visible over Merseyside last night. © Carl Ryan

Onlookers were amazed by a rare appearance of the Northern Lights over Liverpool and the Irish Sea last night.

While usually visible only in locations near the North Pole, last night’s incredible display of the Northern Lights could be viewed even as far south as Merseyside and other parts of the UK.

This was possibly due to a rare magnetic storm reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Centre in the United States.

The Aurora Borealis is a natural phenomenon caused when millions of electrically charged particles break off from the sun and enter the earth’s atmosphere at speeds of up to one million miles per hour.

“It was like something out of a film,” said Aaron Johnson, a 32-year-old from Kirkby, who watched the display from Crosby Beach last night. “I had read online that the Met Office had said there was a chance you might be able to see the lights in Liverpool and thought ‘why not just drive down?’ and see for myself.

“I’m so glad I did because it was an experience I’ll never forget. It was truly amazing.”

Professor Andy Newton of LJMU’s Astrophysics department, and the director of The National Schools Observatory, told JMU Journalism that he was devastated he had missed the spectacular light show, but did explain the complicated process that had caused it.

He said: “Essentially what happens is that the heat from the sun is so great it is constantly producing large explosions which throw a number of small electrically charged particles out in to space. As these particles approach earth they squeeze the earth’s magnetic field – getting trapped.

“The magnetic force begins to bounce these particles back and forth between the North and South Poles at great speed, causing them to hit into one another and so emitting large bursts of different coloured lights.

“This is quite a common sight near the poles where the magnetic field is strongest, but every four or five years the sun’s activity will increase significantly and the explosions it produces will become larger, allowing the lights to be seen across other parts of the world.

“Of course you also need the right conditions and for it to be a clear night so sights like those last night are quite rare.”

About Elle Spencer, JMU Journalism