Solar storm could see Northern Lights glittering over Scotland tonight, Met Office says

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DUFFUS, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 20: The Aurora Borealis is seen above the ruins of Duffus Castle on February 20, 2021 in Duffus, Scotland. The Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights, occurs when solar winds drive charged particles from the sun which strike atoms and molecules in Earths atmosphere causing the light show. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
The Northern Lights above the ruins of Duffus Castle in Scotland on 20 February. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

A solar storm will hit Earth on Monday night thanks to a coronal hole in the surface of the sun – and the Northern Lights could be visible in Scotland.

People in northern latitudes might be able to see the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, as particles from the sun hit Earth’s magnetic field.

The Met Office said: "Some enhancements to the auroral oval are possible overnight 27 into 28 September due to a potential combination of coronal mass ejections and coronal hole fast wind influences, with aurora sightings likely over northern Scotland under clear skies.

"There is just a slight chance that aurora will be visible across southern Scotland as well."

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Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are large clouds of solar plasma and magnetic fields released into space after a solar eruption.

Stretching over millions of miles, they can cause northern lights when they hit Earth’s atmosphere.

There are several of these occurring this week, although not all will hit Earth, the Met Office said. 

"Solar wind speeds may also increase on 27 September, due to a fast wind from a coronal hole, but this is also considered low confidence. There is a risk, however, that the fast wind and coronal mass ejection could arrive together.

"Geomagnetic activity is expected to increase to unsettled to active with G1/minor storm intervals and a slight chance of G2 to G3/moderate to strong storms if we experience a combined CME/fast wind."

Solar storms are ranked from G1 to G5, with stronger storms having the potential to cause radio blackouts. 

LOSSIEMOUTH, SCOTLAND - FEBRUARY 20: The Aurora Borealis is seen above WW2 beach defenses on February 20, 2021 in Lossiemouth, Scotland. The Aurora Borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights, occurs when solar winds drive charged particles from the sun which strike atoms and molecules in Earths atmosphere causing the light show. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
The aurora borealis above Second World War beach defenses in Lossiemouth, Scotland, on 20 February. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

This week’s storm will be at the lower end of the scale, the Met Office said. 

Coronal holes look alarming in the images captured by sun-watching spacecraft such as NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) satellite – but they’re perfectly safe, and normal.

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NASA said: "Coronal holes are low-density regions of the sun's atmosphere, known as the corona. Because they contain little solar material, they have lower temperatures and thus appear much darker than their surroundings.

"Coronal holes are visible in certain types of extreme ultraviolet light, which is typically invisible to our eyes, but is colorised here in purple for easy viewing.

"Coronal holes are the source of a high-speed wind of solar particles that streams off the sun some three times faster than the slower wind elsewhere."

Watch: Northern Lights dance across sky in gorgeous time-lapse

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