People in Essex and Norfolk experienced something rather special as they turned their eyes to the heavens last night (Thursday 27 February) - a rare glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Spectacular red and green lights of the Aurora Borealis lit up skies as far south as Gloucestershire, Essex and Norfolk, the result of a strong magnetic storm.
– Mark Thompson, Astronomer
The Aurora display that we saw last night was really significant, it's not scientifically very valuable but it's really spectacular as so many people got to see it.
To see something like this that I have not seen in Norfolk for a good 20 years is amazing and it was just wonderful that so many people got to see it."
The Northern Lights are usually visible in only the more northern parts of the UK, but a surge in geomagnetic activity last night led to them appearing much further south than usual.
The display occurs when explosions on the surface of the Sun hurl huge amounts of charged particles into space, according to the British Geological Survey (BGS).
Those thrown towards Earth are captured by its magnetic field and guided towards the geomagnetic polar regions. Charged particles collide with gas molecules in the atmosphere, and the subsequent energy is given off as light.
Geomagnetic storms follow an 11-year "solar cycle", and the last "solar maximum" was last year, according to the BGS.
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