Why using your cell phone is one of the best ways to see the Northern and Southern Lights

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By stefan armitage

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If you've logged on to social media today, you've probably been met with a barrage of photos and videos of Friday night's Northern and Southern Lights spectacles.

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

This resulted in residents across the US, UK, and Europe enjoying the aurora borealis, and those in the southern hemisphere like Australia and New Zealand seeing the aurora australis.

And with the celestial spectacular expected to return on Saturday night, more and more people will be crossing this incredible event off their bucket lists.

Many people across the UK and US witnessed the Northern Lights. Credit: Anadolu / Getty

However, whether you saw the lights last night or are hoping to see them tonight, you may be wondering if you can see the aurora borealis/australis with the naked eye.

Well, yes. In areas with clear skies, low light pollution and high levels of aurora activity, you can definitely see the swirling curtains of light with the naked eye. But some people may find a better way to capture the moment: a cell phone.

Scrolling through social media today, and you've probably come across dozens of remarkable images of the lights -- but, in many cases, those images look A LOT better than what the cell phone holders actually saw.

This is because one of the best ways to see the Northern Lights is by using a modern cell phone or other high-quality cameras.

You cell phone is perhaps the best way to see the Northern and Southern Lights. Credit: Anadolu / Getty

Experts say that smartphones are adept at capturing low-light scenes, with Brent Gordon of the Space Weather Prediction Center saying 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."

This is because long exposures can reveal light that’s too faint for our own eyes to see.

Your phone has several modes to capture the best pics of the lights. Credit: StockPlanets / Getty

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, if you're planning on camping out this evening to watch the northern/southern lights, make sure you cell phone battery is fully charge and perhaps bring along an extra power pack.

For more tips on how to see the Northern Lights, keep reading...

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.”

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! We can't wait to see the photos.

Featured image credit: Anadolu / Getty

Why using your cell phone is one of the best ways to see the Northern and Southern Lights

vt-author-image

By stefan armitage

Article saved!Article saved!

If you've logged on to social media today, you've probably been met with a barrage of photos and videos of Friday night's Northern and Southern Lights spectacles.

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

This resulted in residents across the US, UK, and Europe enjoying the aurora borealis, and those in the southern hemisphere like Australia and New Zealand seeing the aurora australis.

And with the celestial spectacular expected to return on Saturday night, more and more people will be crossing this incredible event off their bucket lists.

Many people across the UK and US witnessed the Northern Lights. Credit: Anadolu / Getty

However, whether you saw the lights last night or are hoping to see them tonight, you may be wondering if you can see the aurora borealis/australis with the naked eye.

Well, yes. In areas with clear skies, low light pollution and high levels of aurora activity, you can definitely see the swirling curtains of light with the naked eye. But some people may find a better way to capture the moment: a cell phone.

Scrolling through social media today, and you've probably come across dozens of remarkable images of the lights -- but, in many cases, those images look A LOT better than what the cell phone holders actually saw.

This is because one of the best ways to see the Northern Lights is by using a modern cell phone or other high-quality cameras.

You cell phone is perhaps the best way to see the Northern and Southern Lights. Credit: Anadolu / Getty

Experts say that smartphones are adept at capturing low-light scenes, with Brent Gordon of the Space Weather Prediction Center saying 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."

This is because long exposures can reveal light that’s too faint for our own eyes to see.

Your phone has several modes to capture the best pics of the lights. Credit: StockPlanets / Getty

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, if you're planning on camping out this evening to watch the northern/southern lights, make sure you cell phone battery is fully charge and perhaps bring along an extra power pack.

For more tips on how to see the Northern Lights, keep reading...

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.”

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! We can't wait to see the photos.

Featured image credit: Anadolu / Getty