Northern Lights


Solar Maximum 2000 - 2001 (Solar Cycle 23)

The significance of the solar maximum is the potential for geomagnetic storms creating displays of the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) big enough can be seen from Britain. In this cycle there have been several fine displays visible from southern England (and even further south), and as the sun's activity continues to remain high there is always the chance of more.

The nautical twilight which extends along the northern horizon during the summer months will interfere with lesser displays but should not affect severe overhead storms. Normally Scotland scores over England in sightings on account of its being nearer the North magnetic pole, but during the summer is actually at a disadvantage as the brighter twilight can drown out all but the very brightest displays.

In theory the best time to see an aurora is around midnight (1am BST), but in practice a storm big enough to be seen from Britain can come at any time during the night.

Predictions of Events

Explosions on the Sun, termed Coronal Mass Ejections, are associated with sunspots and can come at any time, but tend to be more common when the Sun is at or near maximum. CMEs directed towards the Earth can, but do not always, produce auroras typically 2 to 3 days later.

The best place I have found for keeping tabs on solar activity and geomagneitc activity is Space Weather. The website is kept up to date hour by hour (at least in US office hours) and you can also sign up to e-mail or phone alerts.

Space Weather for e-mail alerts of solar activity and aurorae by e-mail. This is also a fine site for other celestial events such as meteors, comets and near-Earth asteroids.  
NOAA Space Environment Centre for a good at-a -glance dashboard of the state of play [Space Weather Now], real-time data [Online Data] and a lot of other information.  
Link to NOAA SEC for a quick view of the North pole now  
Link to NOAA SEC for a view of the magnetic activity now  


Solar Cycle 23 (maximum in 2000 - 01)

Reports from Oxted  Julian Taylor
     
Link to British Astronomical Association Aurora Section  


Solar Cycle 22 (maximum in 1990 - 91)

Pictures and report from Kettering  Julian Taylor
     
No links found  


Pre 1990 Events

Sighting from Switzerland Jean Awdry Aldersey Taylor
Sighting from Malvern Julian Taylor
     
No links found  


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