Meteorologists share best tips for seeing the Northern Lights as they're expected to return on Saturday night

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By stefan armitage

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For those of you who haven't been bombarded with photos and videos on social media today, the Northern Lights put on a dazzling display on Friday night.

For thousands of people across the US, UK, and Europe, it was the first time they had ever witnessed the Northern Lights - also known as aurora borealis.

Per BBC News, the phenomenon was the result of one of the strongest geomagnetic storms for years hitting the Earth.

When charged light particles from the Sun collide with our planet's atmospheric gases, they energize atoms and molecules, causing them to emit light.

It's time to tick the lights off your bucket list! Credit: NurPhoto / Getty

The distinct colors of the aurora are a result of different gases in the Earth's atmosphere being energized by the incoming charged particles. Nitrogen and oxygen are the two most abundant gases in the atmosphere, with oxygen atoms emitting predominantly green light - the most common color observed in the Northern Lights. 

Nitrogen atoms, on the other hand, emit hues of purple, blue, and pink.

In the US, the lights were visible as far south as Alabama and northern California, while in Europe, countries like Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland, Denmark, and Poland were treated to the awe-inspiring sight.

But don't worry if you missed Friday night's spectacular, because experts are hopeful that the aurora borealis will be visible on Saturday night (May 11) into Sunday morning.

The Northern Lights attracts a crowd in England. Credit: Ian Forsyth / Getty

Elizabeth Rizzini from BBC Weather described the conditions as "fantastic," with a high likelihood of sightings not only on Friday night but also possibly extending into Saturday. 

Meanwhile, Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon anticipated continued favorable conditions for Saturday night. 

“Conditions could continue on Saturday night, but we still have to work out some details on where exactly that will be,” he said, per The Independent. "The combination of clear skies and enhanced activity from the sun reaching Earth would improve the chances of seeing the display."

Additionally, the Space Weather Prediction Center said in a Saturday morning update: "Overnight, aurora were visible across much of the United States. Weather permitting, they may be visible again tonight."

The southern lights were also visible over areas of Australia and New Zealand. Credit: NurPhoto / Getty

So, what are the best tips for seeing the Northern Lights? Well, here's what the experts have to say...

Check the Forecast


And we mean both the weather and aurora activity forecasts.

Firstly, make sure that high levels of aurora activity are expected in your area. A great tool for this is the official NOAA website.

Next, you're going to want to hope for clear skies. If your local weather forecast is predicting large cloud coverage, you're going to want to jump in the car and drive somewhere with clear skies.

Head to an area with Low Light Pollution


If you're in a built-up area surrounded by streetlights, it may be best to take a drive to the countryside or other dark, open spaces.

Chris Snell, a meteorologist at the Met Office, advised: “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.”

Charge Your Batteries


One of the best ways to see the Northern Lights is by using your phone or other cameras.

Sometimes, the naked eye just cannot pick up on the dazzling display unfolding above you, but experts say that smartphones are adept at capturing low-light scenes. 

Brent Gordon of the Space Weather Prediction Center said on Friday: "Cellphones are much better than our eyes at capturing light. 

"Just go out your back door and take a picture with a newer cellphone, and you'd be amazed at what you see in that picture versus what you see with your eyes."

ITV News meteorologist and weather presenter Chris Page also suggests using a long exposure and to "experiment with different exposure times and ISO settings to achieve the best results."

Additionally, Sten Odenwald - an astronomer and educator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center - told The Verge why your phone's night mode is also perfect for capturing a stunning image of the lights.

"Night mode is typically taking multiple images, like maybe five to ten images at a set speed that it optimizes for. And then it compares the images to find the best ones and basically combines those into your final image," Odenwald said. "It does dark subtraction and flat fielding, which removes distortions, and also removes some of the graininess."

So, make sure you've charged your batteries and maybe bring along an extra power pack.

Look North


The charged particles from the sun are drawn by the Earth's magnetic field, so if you're in the northern hemisphere, you're going to want to look north. (Additionally, if you're in the southern hemisphere, you can see the Southern Lights - known as the aurora australis - by looking south.)

Page adds: "The aurora is drawn towards the polar regions of the Earth. As a result you might not be able to see it directly overhead."

Be Patient


Good things always come to those who wait. The aurora borealis is a must-see event that is on many people's bucket lists.

The display is dependent on a number of different factors, so don't expect to just look up at the sky and see it. Pack a camping chair and settle in for the night - but trust me, it'll be worth it.

Wrap Up Warm


Due to the fact that you may be waiting a while throughout the cold night, make sure you're looking after yourself first and wrap up warm. Wear enough layers to ensure you remain protected from the cold evening - and maybe even pack a flask of coffee or cocoa!

Good luck for tonight and happy skygazing!

Featured image credit: Ian Forsyth / Getty

Meteorologists share best tips for seeing the Northern Lights as they're expected to return on Saturday night

vt-author-image

By stefan armitage

Article saved!Article saved!

For those of you who haven't been bombarded with photos and videos on social media today, the Northern Lights put on a dazzling display on Friday night.

For thousands of people across the US, UK, and Europe, it was the first time they had ever witnessed the Northern Lights - also known as aurora borealis.

Per BBC News, the phenomenon was the result of one of the strongest geomagnetic storms for years hitting the Earth.

When charged light particles from the Sun collide with our planet's atmospheric gases, they energize atoms and molecules, causing them to emit light.

It's time to tick the lights off your bucket list! Credit: NurPhoto / Getty

The distinct colors of the aurora are a result of different gases in the Earth's atmosphere being energized by the incoming charged particles. Nitrogen and oxygen are the two most abundant gases in the atmosphere, with oxygen atoms emitting predominantly green light - the most common color observed in the Northern Lights. 

Nitrogen atoms, on the other hand, emit hues of purple, blue, and pink.

In the US, the lights were visible as far south as Alabama and northern California, while in Europe, countries like Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland, Denmark, and Poland were treated to the awe-inspiring sight.

But don't worry if you missed Friday night's spectacular, because experts are hopeful that the aurora borealis will be visible on Saturday night (May 11) into Sunday morning.

The Northern Lights attracts a crowd in England. Credit: Ian Forsyth / Getty

Elizabeth Rizzini from BBC Weather described the conditions as "fantastic," with a high likelihood of sightings not only on Friday night but also possibly extending into Saturday. 

Meanwhile, Met Office spokesman Stephen Dixon anticipated continued favorable conditions for Saturday night. 

“Conditions could continue on Saturday night, but we still have to work out some details on where exactly that will be,” he said, per The Independent. "The combination of clear skies and enhanced activity from the sun reaching Earth would improve the chances of seeing the display."

Additionally, the Space Weather Prediction Center said in a Saturday morning update: "Overnight, aurora were visible across much of the United States. Weather permitting, they may be visible again tonight."

The southern lights were also visible over areas of Australia and New Zealand. Credit: NurPhoto / Getty

So, what are the best tips for seeing the Northern Lights? Well, here's what the experts have to say...

Check the Forecast


And we mean both the weather and aurora activity forecasts.

Firstly, make sure that high levels of aurora activity are expected in your area. A great tool for this is the official NOAA website.

Next, you're going to want to hope for clear skies. If your local weather forecast is predicting large cloud coverage, you're going to want to jump in the car and drive somewhere with clear skies.

Head to an area with Low Light Pollution


If you're in a built-up area surrounded by streetlights, it may be best to take a drive to the countryside or other dark, open spaces.

Chris Snell, a meteorologist at the Met Office, advised: “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.”

Charge Your Batteries


One of the best ways to see the Northern Lights is by using your phone or other cameras.

Sometimes, the naked eye just cannot pick up on the dazzling display unfolding above you, but experts say that smartphones are adept at capturing low-light scenes. 

Brent Gordon of the Space Weather Prediction Center said on Friday: "Cellphones are much better than our eyes at capturing light. 

"Just go out your back door and take a picture with a newer cellphone, and you'd be amazed at what you see in that picture versus what you see with your eyes."

ITV News meteorologist and weather presenter Chris Page also suggests using a long exposure and to "experiment with different exposure times and ISO settings to achieve the best results."

Additionally, Sten Odenwald - an astronomer and educator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center - told The Verge why your phone's night mode is also perfect for capturing a stunning image of the lights.

"Night mode is typically taking multiple images, like maybe five to ten images at a set speed that it optimizes for. And then it compares the images to find the best ones and basically combines those into your final image," Odenwald said. "It does dark subtraction and flat fielding, which removes distortions, and also removes some of the graininess."

So, make sure you've charged your batteries and maybe bring along an extra power pack.

Look North


The charged particles from the sun are drawn by the Earth's magnetic field, so if you're in the northern hemisphere, you're going to want to look north. (Additionally, if you're in the southern hemisphere, you can see the Southern Lights - known as the aurora australis - by looking south.)

Page adds: "The aurora is drawn towards the polar regions of the Earth. As a result you might not be able to see it directly overhead."

Be Patient


Good things always come to those who wait. The aurora borealis is a must-see event that is on many people's bucket lists.

The display is dependent on a number of different factors, so don't expect to just look up at the sky and see it. Pack a camping chair and settle in for the night - but trust me, it'll be worth it.

Wrap Up Warm


Due to the fact that you may be waiting a while throughout the cold night, make sure you're looking after yourself first and wrap up warm. Wear enough layers to ensure you remain protected from the cold evening - and maybe even pack a flask of coffee or cocoa!

Good luck for tonight and happy skygazing!

Featured image credit: Ian Forsyth / Getty