Northern Lights could be visible from Ireland this weekend 2 months ago

Northern Lights could be visible from Ireland this weekend

Here is what you need to know about witnessing the Northern Lights.

If you are living in Ireland or certain parts of the UK and you gaze into the night sky this weekend, you may get a glimpse of the Northern Lights.


That is according to Astronomy Ireland founder David Moore, who has said that the chance of the natural light display - also known as the Aurora Borealis - being visible "almost doubles" in September and October compared to other times in the year.

Speaking on Newstalk's show Moncrieff on Wednesday, the astronomer said: "In fact, we had a big storm of the aurora a few nights ago.

“Of course, it was cloudy in Ireland, but they had incredible views around the rest of the world where skies were clear.


“And we actually did see an Aurora last week so we've already had two of them. The last week one, by the way, was from Ireland. I got pictures myself."

Explaining what causes the Northern Lights, Moore told the show:

"The sun is a huge seething nuclear cauldron, a hundred times wider than the Earth and there's hot plasma bubbling up from below and it can get blocked by the magnetic fields and that can occasionally cause an explosion, typically once a week, that would dwarf the world's entire nuclear arsenal.

"That blasts billions of tons of radiation, small atomic particles, which hit the Earth but we have a magnetic field and that channels them into the North and the South Pole.

"That sort of oval of activity around the North Pole stretches further south and we see it."

He also said: "There's a big sun spot crossing the sun at the moment that should cause more of them in the coming days and weeks."


Northern Lights

The Northern Lights in Iceland

According to Moore, this and the equinox on Saturday, 23 September - whereby Earth's orbit puts the planet's magnetic field in the best position to receive the aurora-causing particles - increases the chances of the Northern Lights being visible in Ireland.

Asked about what people should expect from the possible light display, the Astronomy Ireland founder replied:


"Well, if you're out in the countryside, you'll always get the best view. Low on the northern horizon, you'll often see the aurora.

"What I saw last week, for instance, was rays on the horizon. A sort of band of light in the north and then these rays that would come and go in intensity.

"They always show up much better on cameras because they can take long exposure photographs. We got some fantastic pictures into [Astronomy Ireland Magazine] of last week's one."

In terms of where to go to get the best view of the phenomenon, he told the programme:

“You'll see a lot of the pictures coming in from Donegal and Mayo because they're looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.

"But Ireland's a fairly small small island, so really you should be able to see it from Kerry and Donegal at the same time, especially if it's a strong display and they're the ones we all want to see.

"You'd want to find somewhere you don't have bright lights on the northern horizon. So, if you're in a town or a city, try and get out of it.

“But I’ve seen them from Dublin suburbs within a kilometre of the city centre. If you can see an aurora from there, you can see it anywhere.

“The big displays everyone sees, the minor ones - you're better off in the countryside.

"You always get a better view in rural locations away from all the street lights."

Moore did also explain that cloudy conditions can prevent the Northern Lights from being visible.

However, he also urged astronomers faced with this scenario to "just keep watching".


"The clouds will eventually clear... Cloud cover... is the most difficult thing to predict and clouds can break unexpectedly... Anything can happen," he added.

For predictions on when the Northern Lights may be visible, visit Astronomy Ireland's Twitter page right here.

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