Comment: Rare left-right 'boxing combination' of coronal mass ejections could light up our sky
Release Date 12 September 2014
The Northern Lights could illuminate skies over northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland today. Mike Lockwood, Professor of Space Environment at the University of Reading, explains why.
"Seeing the aurora over England is a rare but beautiful occurrence. As a rough rule of thumb, aurora is over northern Norway most days, over Scotland about 10 times each 11-year solar activity cycle, and over southern England just once or twice over that period.
"Some evidence suggests that when two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are launched in quick succession, as has happened this week, the effect of the second one can be much greater. A bit like a quick left-right combination from a boxer.
"To see this wonderful event you would need cloud free skies and to be away from street lighting. It's nearly a full moon right now which could detract a bit. However the combination of the two could make a great photo-opportunity.
"The aurora is caused by large balls of material from the solar atmosphere, (CMEs), hitting Earth's magnetic field. And they are very large - an average mass is a million million kilograms! Most miss the Earth but some hit and the ring or aurora around each pole move to lower latitudes in response."