St Davids College

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Aurora Borealis

Published: 03.03.2023 ( a year ago )

This week, parts of the UK were dazzled by the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, which were observed further south than their typical location.

Glimpses of these mesmerizing green and red flickering illuminations in the night sky were spotted as far South as Cornwall, and the North Wales Coastline had one of the best views in the country

Mr Jon Demery, Snowdon Housemaster writes,

Aurora Borealis is a phenomenon on every astronomer's bucket list, I have been fortunate to witness them on many occasions – the Arctic Lapland, the Faroes, Skye, and from our very own backyard on the Great Orme. Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is a natural light display that occurs in the high-latitude regions (around the Arctic and Antarctic) of the Earth's atmosphere. They are caused by the interaction between the solar wind and the Earth's magnetic field, which produces a stream of charged particles that collide with the gases in the atmosphere.

When these charged particles collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the Earth's atmosphere, they excite the atoms and cause them to emit light of varying colours, such as green, red, blue, and purple. The specific colour of the aurora depends on the altitude and the type of gas particles that the charged particles collide with.

The Aurora borealis can be seen in the night sky as a dancing, shifting curtain of light, which can be a breathtaking spectacle to witness. It is a natural wonder that has fascinated people for centuries, and many cultures have developed myths and legends about their origin and significance.

Every so often when the sun’s activity increases, we can sometimes be lucky enough to witness them in the lower latitudes. In recent days, the increased solar activity has put on this amazing light show on our doorstep. Ffion Wakeford (year 9) was in the right place and the right time to capture these wonderful pictures from her back garden in Llanfairfechan with nothing more than her mobile phone.

Ffion said,

“My mum excitedly called me outside just before I went to bed. We could see the ribbon like green tint in the sky, just above puffin island looking North from our house. These phone photos were 3-4 second exposure so the colours are more vivid, but it was the first time we could see the Northern Lights with the naked eye too! We feel so lucky we were able to see them from North Wales and I hope we get to see them again. “

The green colour is quite common and can be seen more easily with the naked eye, the reds and purples however are less common and much harder to see with the naked eye. Modern camera detectors are more able to record these other colours than the human eye.

Over the next few years as the current solar cycle unfolds, there will be hopefully many more opportunities to witness this stunning phenomenon.