Northern Lights visible in Dorset

On Sunday 26 and Monday 27 February, a rare sighting of the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, was delighting people in Dorset.

Although difficult to see with the naked eye, with a camera much more detail of the stunning display can be picked up.

What causes the display?

The Aurora Borealis is only visible in the northern hemisphere. The lights are caused when charged particles bump into gases in the upper atmosphere and energy is released. The interactions are driven by the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field.

Why were they seen so far south?

The more active the sun is, the further south the lights can be seen. It’s rare for the Northern lights to be seen in Dorset, so seeing them here is a real treat.

Aurora watching

What colours can be seen in an aurora?

  • Green is the most common colour seen from the ground and it’s caused by oxygen molecules at lower altitudes
  • Pink and dark red are caused by nitrogen molecules
  • Red is produced by oxygen atoms at higher altitudes
  • Blue and purple is produced by hydrogen and helium molecules

Viewing tips

If the forecast is for high solar activity and clear skies, try to head away from light pollution and look towards the northern horizon. They can appear for a brief time, so enjoy them while you can.

The Sun’s magnetic activity expected to increase into 2025, so we could see more beautiful displays in Dorset in the next few years.