Benhall: Stargazer captures rare Northern Lights images
17:10 28 February 2014
A stargazer from Suffolk has captured rare images of the Northern Lights after a surge in solar activity made the phenomenon visible far beyond its normal confines of the Arctic Circle.
Richard Ayres, of Mollett’s Farm, Benhall, near Saxmundham, was alerted to the “Aurora-frenzy” over social media on Thursday night as the ethereal illuminations made their seldom seen appearance over the British Isles.
“I started to see people commenting on Twitter that it was not just being seen in Scotland but also in northern England, Lincolnshire, then when someone said it was in Norfolk and I thought ‘gosh, we really might have a chance to see it’.
“We could see the sky take on this rich, vivid red with these green streaks and although I’m sure it was not the same as the sights in Scandinavia and the Arctic, it was still something pretty special.”
Mr Ayres, who watched the spectacle with his wife Sasha and their eight-year-old daughter Maddy, believes the low levels of light pollution in Benhall made it possible to see what eluded so many elsewhere in the county.
The aurora are most commonly seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres but their appearance over the skies of Britain are a far rarer event, occurring only two or three times a year.
Scientists say that a huge solar event, known as a “coronal mass ejection”, that took place last week was responsible for the lights being visible in places as far south as Gloucestershire and Essex.
“When the sun has a major geomagnetic event, the flux of particles is so high that they can penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere at lower latitudes, which is why in England it is only after these storms that we can see the lights,” said Professor Mike Kosch, of the University of Lancaster.
“The sun has its own magnetic field and sometimes it undergoes a major perturbation for reasons that we don’t entirely know.
“The corona of the sun is highly charged and at a very high temperature releases charged particles, which we call coronal mass ejections.”