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Stunning aurora borealis lights up Cambridge night sky





An unprecedented and stunning aurora could be visible in Cambridge again this weekend after the phenomenon illuminated the sky on Friday night.

“This is what Fantasia aspires to!” said a Chesterton resident on social media alongside a photo of the stronger-than-expected G5 strength geomagnetic storm.

Aurora display over Duxford, 11.30pm, 10 May 2024. Picture: Marc Carmel
Aurora display over Duxford, 11.30pm, 10 May 2024. Picture: Marc Carmel

“OMG, I can't believe I just took these outside my home... What an incredible lightshow!” said Marc Carmel, a Duxford resident and member of Melbourn Photography club.

A G5 geomagnetic storm is the strongest level of the phenomena known as aurora borealis. Aurora displays occur when charged particles collide with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere around the magnetic poles.

Aurora display over Duxford, 11.30pm, 10 May 2024. Picture: Marc Carmel
Aurora display over Duxford, 11.30pm, 10 May 2024. Picture: Marc Carmel

The bands of pink and green light were seen across the UK and in parts of Europe after the “extreme” geomagnetic storm caused them to be more visible, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The NOAA said the geomagnetic storm hit earth on Thursday and could affect communications, GPS and power grids. The cause of this storm is a “large, complex” sunspot cluster and is 17 times the diameter of earth, with the last storm with a G5 rating hitting earth in October 2003, causing power outages in Sweden.

The aurora over Cambridge, 10 May 2024. Picture: Asia Gabriel
The aurora over Cambridge, 10 May 2024. Picture: Asia Gabriel

Spectacular displays were spotted in Whitley Bay on the north east coast, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Wokingham in Berkshire. They were also spotted in Suffolk, Kent, Hampshire and Liverpool.

The NOAA said the lights could be seen as far south as Alabama and southern California in the US.

“We were sitting there and suddenly there was a massive shaft of light and we didn’t know what it what it was,” said photographer Richard Manning, who was in Fen Ditton on Friday evening. “We were sitting in the garden and it didn’t click, we thought it was a plane, then the moon moved and 10 or 15 minutes later the whole sky went mad and I thought ‘let’s take a photograph’.

Aurora over Fen Ditton, 10 May, 2024. Picture: Richard Manning
Aurora over Fen Ditton, 10 May, 2024. Picture: Richard Manning

“I’ve seen a solar eclipse and that was mind blowing. I’ve wanted to see an aurora for years, but to see one in Cambridge is incredible. It was magical - you can break it down with science, but if you didn’t have science you’d think ‘what’s God trying to say?'

Chris Snell, a meteorologist at the Met Office, said there were sightings “from top to tail across the country”.

The aurora over Horningsea at midnight on Friday evening (10 May, 2024). Picture: Muhammad Chilwan
The aurora over Horningsea at midnight on Friday evening (10 May, 2024). Picture: Muhammad Chilwan

He said: “It is hard to fully predict what will happen in the Earth’s atmosphere, but there will still be enhanced solar activity tonight, so the lights could be visible again in northern parts of the UK, including Scotland, Northern Ireland and the far north of England.”

Mr Snell said there were sightings in parts of Europe on Friday night as well, with the Met Office receiving pictures and information from locations including Prague and Barcelona.

The aurora over Chesterton, 10 May, 2024. Picture: Susan Dix
The aurora over Chesterton, 10 May, 2024. Picture: Susan Dix

He advised those hoping to see the lights on Saturday to head to an area with low light pollution and to use a good camera, adding: “The best chance you have of seeing the lights is if you are away from street lights and areas with lots of light pollution, as any type of light does have a big effect.”

“Also, at this time of year, we are fighting the shorter length of nights, so it is unlikely that they will be visible until around 10.30pm or 11 o’clock when it gets really dark.”

Kirsty Wilson took this in the Swavesey area
Kirsty Wilson took this in the Swavesey area
Kirsty Wilson took this in the Swavesey area
Kirsty Wilson took this in the Swavesey area

Did you take some pictures of the aurora where you are? We’d love to see them. Email newsdesk@iliffemedia.co.uk with some details and we’ll publish a selection.



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