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Northern Lights dazzle Renfrewshire skies

Thursday 16th May, 2024

The Northern Lights danced across the night sky late on Friday 10 May, with the rare and spectacular display continuing well into the wee-hours of Saturday morning.

A stunning and unusual display

Typically reserved for regions much closer to the Arctic Circle, Friday’s light-show was visible right across the UK. Even Brighton and Newquay enjoyed breath-taking displays of colour.

For most of us here in Renfrewshire, some of the best rays were seen when looking South, such was the intensity of the solar storm.

More about the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are a natural phenomenon that happens when energy from the Sun collides with the Earth’s atmosphere. The result is vibrant hues of green, purple, pink, orange and blue light trailing across the sky.

Friday’s display technically started several days earlier, when a series of massive solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) erupted from the Sun, throwing super-charged solar particles at our planet’s magnetic field. This triggered something called a G5 geomagnetic storm; thought to be the most intense solar storm for more than twenty years.

Photos from Renfrewshire

So, what was seen in the sky above Renfrewshire on Friday night? We’ve pulled together a collection of the best photos taken right across the area for you to enjoy.

How to spot them again

If you missed Friday’s display, don’t worry. According to experts, the Sun is approaching a very active phase of its 11-year solar cycle, so we’re likely to see more aurora-producing storms in the months to come.

To make sure you’re all set for next time, here’s our 5 top tips for aurora-hunting in the local area.

  • Check the forecast

The Met Office’s Space Weather forecast and NOAA’s Aurora forecast are a great place to check for solar activity and sign up to alerts. Then of course you need to check for clear skies for where you plan to aurora-spot.

  • ┬áHead for dark skies

The night skies above Lochwinnoch’s Castle Semple and Muirshiel visitor centres are amongst the darkest in Renfrewshire, making them the best location for spotting the Northern Lights. If you can’t get there though, head for outdoor spaces away from the bigger towns and light pollution.

  • Look North

The auroral arc looks a bit like a donut that usually rotates around the Arctic Circle. So when there’s aurora activity visible above Renfrewshire, it tends to display in the skies to the north.

  • Avoid the full moon

A full moon can outshine an aurora display. Aim for nights where the moon is new or not too bright.

  • Be patient, and be prepared!

The Northern Lights can be unpredictable to say the least. Dress for the weather, bring a comfy seat and supplies, and be prepared to wait!