Amazing Aurora to dance across Midlands skies tonight
The East Midlands is forecast good conditions to see the northern lights tonight (Monday, March 7).
Skywatchers, 'Aurora Service' have forecast a 'Level 7' Geomagnetic Storm tonight, meaning that the amazing natural lightshow is expected to be visible in the UK.
The service expects that geomagnetic activity will reach Kp7 at around midnight, slowly reducing over the rest of night until morning, and could be seen in central England, and potentially even as far south as London.
Last night a level 6 was forecast, which was visible as far south as Oxfordshire.
The East Midlands may get that lucky combination of high geomagnetic activity and clear skies perfect for viewing the Aurora. The Met Office has Forecast a largely clear night up to midnight, but cloud cover threatens to return by 3am - so get your head in the sky as early as you can.
The Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre said: "Where cloud breaks occur aurora may be visible across Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England tonight."
What does Kp7 mean?
The Kp index, or planetary index, is a way of determining how for south astrological events and aurora can be seen. Kp0 is the lowest level, and means an Aurora is very weak of barely visible. Kp9 is the highest, with very high activity and auroras visible as far south as France and Spain.
Skywatchers know that when Auroras get up to a certain level of geomagnetic activity, they will usually be seen in certain places. So for the North of England and Scotland this is kp6 - for southern England it's typically Kp7.
What causes the northern lights?
The streaks, ripples and arcs of coloured light dancing across the nights sky known as Aurora are actually light created by the collisions between charged particles from the sun and gases in our own atmosphere.
Generally particles thrown at earth by solar winds are deflected by our magnetic field, but this field is weaker at the poles, hence why you can generally only sea Aurora Borealis at very far north, and Aurora Australis far south.
You may wonder why Aurora come in a variety of colours - it's not quite like rainbow, where the arc of light is visible depending on the angle it is refracted through the atmosphere. For Aurora, you get different colours depending on which gases the ions are colliding with.
Most common is yellowy-green, produced by oxygen molecules around 60 miles above us. More rare is red, from higher altitude oxygen, and blue or purple aurora are produced by nitrogen.