In a very rare display, the northern lights were seen as far south as Kent and Cornwall on Sunday night.

Across more northern areas of the UK, the display was one of the best seen in a very long time by BBC Weather Watchers.

An aurora is formed by a solar flare erupting on the Sun, sending charged particles towards Earth which interact with our atmosphere.

More displays are expected in the coming nights.

Vibrant green colours of the aurora filling the whole sky
Image caption,Vibrant green colours of the aurora filling the whole sky in the Shetland Islands
The green lights projected onto the south side of Lough Neagh in County Armagh
Image caption,The green lights were projected onto south side of Lough Neagh in County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Bright green and deep red colours fill the sky
Image caption,Bright green and deep red colours filled the sky in the Scottish Highlands
The views seen over the Brecon Beacons in south Wales
Image caption,A kaleidoscope of colours was cast over the Brecon Beacons in south Wales

In the UK, we can often see the northern lights in Scotland, but they are rarely spotted in southern England.

On Sunday, there were sightings there as well as Northern Ireland, south Wales and Norfolk.

Glow of red above Herne Bay in Kent in the night sky.
Image caption,The lights are rarely seen in Kent, southern England

Over the last few days, a strong solar flare on the Sun’s surface was directed towards Earth with charged particles reaching our atmosphere on Sunday night.

The charged particles interact with oxygen and nitrogen which then emit green and red colours over our poles.

If it’s a strong solar flare, the charged particles can travel further away from the poles into middle latitudes such as southern England.

There may be another opportunity to see the northern lights on Monday night where skies are clear.

One BBC weather watcher captured the strong pink and purple hues covering the Norfolk sky
Image caption,One BBC weather watcher captured the strong pink and purple hues covering the Norfolk sky on Sunday night

Photographer Gary Pearson, who watched the display from Brancaster Staithe in Norfolk on Sunday, said: “We had a fantastic showing from the northern lights last night.

“The aurora was clearly visible to the naked eye, though it was the long exposure taken by the camera that picked up the extremely vivid colours.”

Aurora borealis Brancaster Staithe in Norfolk
Image caption,Photographer Gary Pearson captured the rare lights cast over Brancaster Staithe in Norfolk

In the heart of Teesdale, County Durham, revellers witnessed a blast of green and red light at Grassholme Observatory.

Green and red lights created by the aurora borealis
Image caption,At Grassholme Observatory, County Durham, green and red lights filled the sky
Red and green colours in the night sky
Image caption,In Stirling, Scotland, the aurora was in full view

The Sun goes through an 11-year solar cycle measured in terms of how active its magnetic field is. As this magnetic field changes, so does the amount of activity on the Sun’s surface.

The last solar minimum was in 2020, so activity on the Sun has been increasing since then and it is currently the most active since 2014.

Solar maximum is expected in 2025, more frequent displays of the aurora are likely in the coming years.

Bench over a body of water with red and yellows of the aurora reflected.
Image caption,More yellow tones were seen in the aurora in Argyll and Bute, Scotland

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