Northern Lights in Sunderland: Your pictures, and the chances of seeing them tonight

Sunderland was lit up in magical colours last night as the city got an amazing view of the Northern Lights.

Thanks to Echo readers who sent us their pictures, you can scroll down to see them.

People across the UK enjoyed the amazing spectacle on Friday, May 10, after one of the strongest geomagnetic storms for years hit Earth, with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issuing a rare solar storm warning.

The Aurora Borealis lit up the sky overnight, illuminating huge areas of the UK in pink and green.

The phenomenon can often be seen in Sunderland, but rarely with such intensity - and the lights could even by seen in southern regions of the UK

But don’t worry too much if you missed it. The level of solar activity means aurora-watchers in Sunderland could be rewarded with another spectacular display on Saturday.

Where can you see displays tonight?

Those hoping to see the lights on Saturday are advised to head to an area with low light pollution.

Sightings in southern parts of the UK are less likely on Saturday, although the lights might be visible through a strong camera lens.

But Sunderland’s position gives it among the best chances in the country.

The shorter summer nights limit the window during which the lights can be seen, but experts say they they should be visible around from around 11pm.

But there is expected to be an end to the clear skies in the UK on Sunday, with rain, cloudy skies - and thunderstorms in some parts - ending the nice weather.

How can I improve my chances of seeing the lights?

Meteorologists have advised staying away from streetlights and using a camera to help improve your chances of seeing the auroras, with cameras better able to adapt to different wavelengths than our eyes.

What causes the Northern Lights

Aurora displays occur when charged particles collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere around the magnetic poles.

As they collide, light is emitted at various wavelengths, creating colourful displays in the sky.

In the northern hemisphere, most of this activity takes place within a band known as the aurora oval, covering latitudes between 60 and 75 degrees.

When activity is strong, this expands to cover a greater area – which explains why displays can be occasionally seen as far south as the UK.

Why are they so visible at the moment?

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the earth was hit by a G5 geomagnetic storm on Thursday. A G5 rating is considered “extreme” and the strongest level of solar storm.

The cause of this storm was a “large, complex” sunspot cluster, 17 times the diameter of Earth.

How common is it?

The last storm with a G5 rating hit Earth more than 20 years ago in October 2003 and caused power outages in Sweden.

Every 11 years, the sun’s poles reverse, causing bursts of solar activity resulting in northern lights. Scientists predict the next solar maximum will occur at the end of 2024.

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