Updated Feb 27, 2023, 10:21am EST

The northern lights made a rare appearance over the UK. Here’s why

Northern lights are seen in the sky over Swaffham, Britain, February 26, 2023, in this still image obtained from a social media video. James Billings Photography/via REUTERS
James Billings Photography/via REUTERS

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Sky-watchers across the United Kingdom managed to snag a glimpse of the northern lights Sunday evening, a rarity in most of the country.

The aurora borealis was visible as far south as Cornwall, the most southern region of the U.K.

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Why are they visible?

Typically, the northern lights are visible closer to the North Pole, meaning that Scandinavian countries, Canada, and parts of Russia generally get the best view. Scotland is also no stranger to the aurora, but the spectacle is a rarity in more southern locations.

The U.K.’s Met Office that “under severe space weather conditions the lights can be seen throughout the UK.”

The Met Office said that the lights were visible due to a “coronal mass ejection,” a rush of plasma that exits the sun’s surface and causes geomagnetic storms. Those storms result in the northern lights, and the high intensity of this latest ejection means the aurora is appearing further afield than usual.

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The Met Office explained the sighting was due to the combination of a coronal hole high speed stream and a coronal mass ejection.

One night sky-watcher in Scotland said conditions were “perfect” Sunday evening to catch a glimpse of the aurora.

Another observer in Cornwall stated they spotted the lights appearing to shimmer and dance from their intensity.

In Aberdeen, Scotland, one observer recorded a time lapse video of the aurora over a nearby bay.