Northern Lights: Best UK areas and dates to watch Aurora Borealis after solar storm forecast

Aurora Borealis over St Mary's Lighthouse, Whitley Bay. Credit: Andrew Stewart

The Northern Lights are expected to be visible to the naked eye in northern parts of the UK again tonight after scientists detected solar flares.

The Aurora Borealis should be able to be viewed again as far south as Scotland, parts of Northern England, the Midlands and Northern Ireland on 1 April, following Thursday night's spectacular.

Experts predicted a solar storm following a solar flare and a 'mass ejection', which is likely to drive the spectacular lights southward towards the equator.

According to the British Geological Survey, the best chance of seeing the phenomenon will be on Friday - if the skies are clear enough amid a week of unsettled weather.

What are the Northern Lights?

An Aurora Borealis effect occurs when energised particles from the sun slam into Earth's upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 45 million mph (72 million kph), but our planet's magnetic field protects us from the onslaught. 

As the Earth's magnetic field redirects the particles toward the poles, they combine with the upper atmosphere and produce dazzling colours.

Aurora Borealis over the Sycamore Gap at Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland Credit: PA

Where and when can I see the Northern lights in the UK?

The British Geological Survey (BGS) has issued a 'Geomagnetic Disturbance Alert' this week - meaning it's a prime time for keen night sky-watchers to catch a rare glimpse of the Northern Lights.

This comes after an M1-class (minor) solar flare caused a coronal mass ejection (CME) on 28 March, in which plasma from the sun is ejected into space.

When this happens, significant disturbances to the geomagnetic field are likely to occur and this often leads to a solar storm.

Solar storms transmit magnetic charges and electrical fields towards the Earth.

When the storm is significant, a greater intensity of particles is transmitted, meaning the aurora borealis is more pronounced and therefore more likely to be seen further south.

Weather forecast: What areas will be clear enough for me to see the Northern lights tonight?Experts say Aurora Borealis chasers have the best hope of viewing the spectacular phenomenon in clear night-time sky conditions and in the countryside, away from city 'light pollution'.

The Met Office has forecast an "unsettled" week of weather.

There will likely be heavy cloud cover for most areas, and even sleet and snow.

However, in Scotland, the skies are set to clear up in many areas despite a wintry few days forecast.

The Met Office's cloud clover forecast map shows clear skies from around 10pm for the Highlands and Scotland's West on Friday, lasting into the small hours of the morning.

But the forecaster is also warning of a high chance of fog and mist overnight for much of the Scottish Highlands, which could obscure views.

The best time for stargazers in Dumfries and Galloway to see the Northern Lights was on Thursday 31 March, when clouds were due to have dissipated.

The same went for those in Northern Ireland, where the skies were more likely to be clear on Thursday night than on Friday.

Belfast was expected to be relatively cloudless between 9pm and 10pm on Thursday.

Prospects of spotting the lights in the northeast of England look less promising, with Leeds, Middlesbrough, Newcastle and much of Northumberland set for cloudy and often snowy nights on both dates the Northern Lights are forecast.

However Leeds and Middlesbrough may briefly clear around 9pm, and around 2am Saturday.

Carlisle and Manchester both stood a better chance with clear skies on Thursday night, before turning cloudy later on Friday night.