Spectacular display of Northern Lights on the cards across Ireland tonight

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Allison Bray

A spectacular celestial display is on the cards tonight as an aurora borealis storm is forecast for the skies above Ireland, according to Astronomy Ireland.

The stunning phenomenon also known as the Northern Lights was witnessed by stargazers across Ireland on Wednesday night with a number of sightings from Northern Ireland to Sligo and the Tipperary/Waterford border.

BBC Northern Ireland’s weather unit tweeted a number of stunning photos taken across the north, including images of a green and purple haze nestled over Rathlin Island in Co Antrim.

Astronomy Ireland magazine also posted beautiful photos of a starry night in south Sligo against a green and raspberry-coloured backdrop while another stargazer shared her stunning images of what looked like a green and purple rain falling over the Knockmealdown Mountains on the Tipperary/Waterford border.

And the good news is the light show should be visible again tonight, according to David Moore of Astronomy Ireland.

“There’s a good chance it might be seen tonight,” he told Independent.ie.

The only caveat is cloud cover and light pollution which can obscure the display.

But Mr Moore said all it takes is a break in the clouds to get a glimpse of the spectacle which is caused by solar storms on the surface of the sun which emit electrically-charged particles that appear as wavy curtains of light.

“When you get a major (solar) storm all you have to combat is the clouds,” he said.

“But don’t be put off by clouds. Check the sky anyway. People from the north and south will see it, from Cork to Donegal, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“It’s a free spectacle of nature.”

Astronomy Ireland issued an aurora alert on its social media platforms yesterday and today – one of a dozen such alerts issued over the past year.

And while most people associate the Northern Lights with Scandinavian countries, he said the phenomena is not just confined to the far north.

Stargazers in the UK also reported spectacular sightings of vivid red, green and pink lights streaking across the sky from as far south as Devon to Scotland in the north on Wednesday night.

And the good news is the weather may actually cooperate tonight. Met Eireann is forecasting a largely dry night tonight across most of the country, with the exception of drizzle affecting the west and northwest.

There is no optimal time to view the lights, so Mr Moore advised stargazers to keep an eye on the skies anytime from dusk to dawn.

“It can spring into action at any time and last for around 12 hours,” he said.

And if anyone does capture the images on camera, he urged them to get in touch with Astronomy Ireland magazine where they will be posted.