You might have a better chance of seeing the Northern Lights this winter - here are the best places to watch

Friday, 25th September 2020, 3:57 pm
Updated Friday, 25th September 2020, 4:21 pm
The Northern Lights could be more visible (Picture: Shutterstock)
The Northern Lights could be more visible (Picture: Shutterstock)

It's the night time spectacle that many of us would love to see, but this winter it may be more likely for more of us to witness the Northern Lights.

What are the Northern Lights?

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The aurora borealis, or aurora, are a natural electrical phenomenon characterised by the appearance of streams of red or green lights in the sky, especially near the northern or southern magnetic pole.

The effect is caused by the interaction of charged particles from the sun with atoms in the upper atmosphere.

Why are they more visible now?

NASA has announced that the sun is starting a new solar cycle for this winter season. The solar cycle lasts 11 years and plots larger and fewer intense periods of activity on the sun.

This is the same solar activity that causes Northern Lights displays, which are predicted to increase in frequency and intensity over the coming years.

Picture: www.lightsoverlapland.com

Writing in a NASA article, Chris Ratzlaff, an aurora chaser, commented: "Mid-latitude aurora photographers are intimately familiar with the solar cycle. For us, the solar cycle means the difference between being able to catch the aurora once or twice a month during solar maximum, or seeing it only a few times a year during solar minimum (and knowing that we have a few years to wait until we're regularly staying up well past our bedtimes again)."

NASA have said that the solar minimum that marks the end of the previous cycle could have happened back in December 2019, but the variability of the sun means that knowing for sure can take months.

Currently the Northern Lights have been seen over Abisko in northern Sweden but as the nights get darker here in the UK, aurora hunters may be in for a treat.

Picture: Shutterstock

Where to see the northern lights in the UK and Ireland

As we move into winter and the nights get longer, places with low light pollution are best for glimpsing the aurora borealis.

Places in the UK where you may see the northern lights are...

Scotland

According to Visit Scotland, these are the best places to visit for a glimpse of the Aurora.

  • Shetland, Orkney and Caithness, such as Noss Head and Wick
  • Aberdeenshire and the Moray Coast, head for Nairn, Portknockie and Cairn o’ Mount
  • Lewis, Harris and the most northerly tip of Skye
  • The far north west of Scotland, for example, Applecross, Lochinver and north of Ullapool
  • The Cairngorms
  • Galloway Forest Park – the only dark sky park in Scotland
  • Rannoch Moor and Perthshire
  • Angus and the coast of Fife, including St Andrews and Kinghorn
  • Loch Lomond

England

  • The Lake District, including Derwentwater near Keswick
  • Northumberland has some of the darkest skies in England so is a good place to visit for northern lights hunters
  • Exmoor National Park in Devon
  • Southernmost parts of the Cornish coastline
  • North York Moors National Park
  • Peak District, including Mam Tor

Wales

  • Brecon Beacons
  • Anglesey
  • Snowdonia National Park
  • Stackpole, Pembrokeshire

Ireland

  • County Donegal
  • County Kerry
  • County Sligo
  • County Mayo