The aurora borealis put on a spectacular show over the skies of southern Scotland and northern England last night.
Also known as the northern lights the aurora borealis is typically seen at high altitudes in rural areas although in certain circumstances is spotted above cities and towns as well.
What causes the aurora borealis?
The aurora borealis is actually caused by activities on the surface of the sun. Solar Storm's on our star's surface give out clouds of electrically charged particles.
Most deflect away, though some become captured in earth’s magnetic field, moving down towards the north and south poles into the atmosphere.
“These particles then slam into atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere and essentially heat them up,” explains Royal Observatory astronomer Tom Kerss. “We call this physical process ‘excitation’, but it’s very much like heating a gas and making it glow.”
Why are the aurora's different colours?
The aurora's are different colours due to the gasses giving heat produce the colour. Oxygen causes the colour in the aurora to go green while hints of purple, pink and blue are caused by nitrogen.
The aurora borealis can be seen in the northern hemisphere, while the aurora australis is found in the southern hemisphere.
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...