Thursday, May 30, 2024

Northern Lights may be visible across Ireland again tonight as stunning pictures show effect of rare solar storm

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Stargazers across the country reported seeing the phenomenon, which has been accentuated by a “rare” solar storm.

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the US said it is monitoring the sun following a series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that began on Wednesday.

As a result, the NOAA has issued a rare geomagnetic storm watch, the first in nearly two decades, which will lead to the Northern Lights or aurora borealis being visible across the world, including in Ireland.

Northern Lights captured in Dublin

Met Éireann meteorologist Andrew Doran-Sherlock said there is a “lower probability” that the phenomenon will be visible from Ireland again tonight.

“According to the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, there is a lower probability that it will occur again tonight,” he said.

“Last night was definitely the best night. There will be more cloud around tonight, especially in the western half of the country.

“The Northern Lights or aurora are best seen further north.”

Northern Lights in Kilkenny

The strong solar flares resulted in five outbursts of plasma which it said were capable of disrupting satellites in orbit and power grids on Earth.

The flares are associated with a sunspot 16 times the diameter of Earth, according to the NOAA.

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In 2003, an extreme geomagnetic storm disabled power in Sweden and damaged power transformers in South Africa.

Northern Lights in Wexford

The aurora borealis could be visible across the whole country on Friday and Saturday night with clear skies improving the chances of the phenomenon being visible.

Alan O’Reilly of Carlow Weather said the chances of seeing the Northern lights again on Saturday were high however fog “could cause issues for some”.

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Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme, he said the solar activity has been at a “very high level not seen in many years.”

Northern Lights on show in Donabete. Picture by Steve Humphreys

“It is a lot of different variables but it is very intense, so there is a good chance of seeing some Northern lights activity tonight (Friday) and tomorrow night (Saturday),” he said.

He added that the window to see the Northern Lights over Ireland is shorter due to the earlier sunset and sunrise times, however given the intensity of the activity “there is a very good chance.”

He advised Irish stargazers to set up their phone camera in long exposure mode on a tripod to capture the lights due to the difficulty of seeing it with the naked eye in Ireland as well as giving your eyes time to adjust by looking through your phone first.

According to Met Éireann, the Northern Lights are best observed in locations with very small amounts of light pollution, particularly parts of the west and north coast in Ireland.

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“With clear spells forecast for tonight there’s a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights especially in the northern half of the country,” Met Éireann said in its Friday night forecast.

People train their phones on the sky as they try to get a better glimpse of the Northern Lights. Photo: Mark Condren

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