Spectacular skies above the Isle of Wight

By Carole Dennett May 11, 2024
Pic: Sienna Anderson

Last night, the Island was treated to a breathtaking display of the Northern Lights, thanks to the most intense solar storm we’ve experienced in nearly two decades.

This rare event bought the Northern Lights further south than usual.

What are the Northern Lights

Gazing up at the night sky reveals more than just stars. Solar storms on our sun’s surface eject vast clouds of electrically charged particles across millions of miles, with some destined to meet Earth.

Ryde: George Wallace

While many particles are turned away, a few are ensnared by our planet’s magnetic field, pulled towards the poles, where the real show usually takes place. The solar travellers collide with atoms and molecules in our atmosphere—essentially, making gases glow.

The spectacular show above Carisbrooke pic: Curtis Allen

Different gases give off different colours when they are heated. This is the process taking place in the aurora.

The two primary gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are nitrogen and oxygen, and these elements give off different colours during an aurora display. Nitrogen is responsible for purple, blue and pink hues and oxygen emits green. Sometimes a scarlet red colour is visible caused by very high altitude oxygen interacting with the solar particles.

The aurora can usually be seen near the poles of both the northern and southern hemisphere. In the north the display is known as the aurora borealis or northern lights, in the south it is called the aurora australis, the southern lights.

It’s said the effects of this massive geomagnetic storm may linger, offering another chance to witness this natural wonder tonight, if the skies are clear and there are no thunder storms. Keep your eyes towards the skies tonight.

Isle of Wight Photographer, Sienna Anderson, who watched the spectacular display from the Needles said: “I still can’t believe this just happened, never ever did I think I would get to see the Northern Lights especially not from the Island, feeling ecstatic.”

She used a Sony A7riii, lens was Sony 12-24 shot at f4 between 15 and 20 seconds manually focused.