According to scientists, the upcoming winter will offer the most impressive northern lights viewings in the past two decades.
Experts forecast that this winter will offer some of the most impressive views of the Northern Lights in the past two decades. The phenomenon has even been observed in southern England.
Scientists expect the sun to reach its highest point in its activity cycle, also known as “solar maximum,” in 2024. This event is expected to occur between January and October of that year and will result in dazzling aurora displays in the lower polar regions and potentially even in Europe.
The upcoming solar maximum is eagerly awaited, particularly following the previous one in December 2019, which was the weakest in 100 years.
Over the weekend, the northern lights were visible across much of the UK and Ireland, even as far south as Stonehenge.
Njål Gulbrandsen, a researcher in space physics at Tromsø Geophysical Observatory, which is a part of the Arctic University of Norway (UiT), anticipates an increase in aurora activity compared to the past two decades. This is due to the sun reaching its peak and causing more solar storms, resulting in a greater presence of auroras that can be seen in areas further south than usual.
The current increase in activity is largely due to the 11-year solar cycle, according to the speaker. Additionally, the previous solar cycle was relatively weak, potentially contributing to the current high levels of activity. It has been nearly two decades since activity has reached this intensity, requiring us to look back in time to observe similar levels.
The ideal locations to view the northern lights, which occur when solar particles travel towards Earth, are typically in northern Norway, Finland, and Sweden, as well as Iceland, the northern regions of the US and Canada, and the southern area of Greenland. However, during the solar maximum, the auroral oval widens, allowing for visibility in various parts of Europe.
Katie Herlingshaw, a space physics researcher at the University Centre in Svalbard (Unis), stated that there will be impressive displays in the usual locations, but also in unexpected areas further south. She expressed excitement about the current strong solar maximum, as many have forgotten its true potential.
Reworded: Herlingshaw is studying a unique aurora phenomenon called “fragments,” which is characterized by green light appearing near traditional auroral arcs. He explains that during large solar storms, these fragments should be visible in Europe and the UK. The crucial factor is finding a dark location away from city lights.