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Gallery: Dramatic Northern Lights display 'the best in years'

The aurora borealis, or the northern lights as they are commonly known at Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Sky watchers say the latest display of the Northern Lights is the best for years.

The incredible display was captured by Dunstanburgh Castle, on the Northumberland coast.

The thrilling show, quite visible to the naked eye, lasted for several hours, as pillars of light danced across the dark and moonless night.

The aurora borealis, or the northern lights as they are commonly known at Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

The Kielder Observatory, which tweeted "we had the best aurora display in years".

The natural phenomenon is caused by charged particles colliding in the Earth's atmosphere and is seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemisphere.

The aurora borealis, or the northern lights as they are commonly known at Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire
The aurora borealis, or the northern lights as they are commonly known at Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Matt Robinson, a 29-year-old volunteer at Kielder Observatory, said the solar wind takes three days to reach Earth, so aurora watchers have some notice about when the lights might appear strongly.

It's hit and miss and you have to hope everything else works in your favour. You need clear skies, the Earth's magnetic field has to be pointing in the right direction... it's complicated but it is worth it when it comes off.

– Matt Robinson
The aurora borealis, or the northern lights as they are commonly known at Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Aurora watchers also need to head out of the city and away from light pollution which bleaches out the display, as does bright moonlight.

The aurora borealis, or the northern lights as they are commonly known at Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Usually the best spots to see the lights are those places close to the North Pole, such as Iceland and Norway. In the southern hemisphere, they are known as the Aurora Australis and can often be mirror-like images that occur at the same time as in the north.

The aurora borealis, or the northern lights as they are commonly known at Dunstanburgh Castle in Northumberland. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire