TECH
17/03/2015 12:21 GMT | Updated 18/03/2015 12:59 GMT

Met Office: Solar Storm Means Northern Lights Could Be Visible As Far South As Birmingham

UPDATE: Here are the best pictures from the storm -- which alas is now coming to a close.

A massive solar storm is underway — and it might mean a rare chance to see the northern lights as far south as the Midlands, if the clouds are kind.

The Met Office said that a stellar geomagnetic storm was raging across the northern hemisphere, and would cause a natural fireworks show across much of the UK.

The ‘severe’ storm is said to be just one category below the highest possible strength rating — a G4 — according to the NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center.

The storm was caused by a pair of coronal mass ejections - expulsions of vast amounts of matter from the sun - which occurred in quick succession. The first CME ‘cleared the path’ for the second, which is now causing huge auroras in the northern and southern hemispheres, as ionised particles interact with the magnetic field around Earth’s poles.

It has long been feared that similar storms could cause widespread problems with communications and electrical systems.

The forecaster said that cloud cover could mean that the lights are only visible if you happen to be on board a plane — but that there might be breaks in the cloud.

Oddly enough while the Northern Lights appearing as far south as the Midlands is rare, it’s already happened at least once this year.

Northern Lights around the world