The equinox, which occurs on September 23rd, could provide a better opportunity to witness the impressive spectacle of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. The Earth’s magnetic field and the planet’s tilt at that time create favorable conditions for the occurrence of this natural light phenomenon. Although there is never a definite guarantee of seeing the Northern Lights, the equinox increases the probability rather than guaranteeing it.
According to David Moore, editor of Astronomy Ireland magazine, the best locations in Ireland to observe the Northern Lights are the northern coast of Northern Ireland and Mayo. These areas are ideal due to their unobstructed views of the Atlantic Ocean, along with minimal light pollution from cities and towns. However, if the sky is clear, the Northern Lights can be visible from anywhere in the country.
The phenomenon of the Northern Lights begins after solar eruptions, or eruptions on the Sun, release billions of tons of radiation into space. Approximately two days after these solar eruptions occur, atomic particles collide with Earth’s atmosphere. Some of these particles become trapped in Earth’s magnetic field and are drawn towards the North and South Poles. When these particles collide with atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, they create the vibrant colors associated with the Northern Lights.
To fully experience the Northern Lights, it is essential to get away from artificial lights. Living in a city will only offer a glimpse of the main events. The Sun goes through activity cycles every 11 years, and it is expected to reach its peak in 2025, making the upcoming years particularly favorable for seeing the Northern Lights.
Astronomy Ireland offers an aurora alert service, publishing predictions every evening about the sky conditions for the following night, including the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. The lights can be observed at different times of the night, sometimes for several hours and sometimes for a brief period.
Although cloudy skies can make the observation experience challenging, the solar particles hit the atmosphere above the clouds. Therefore, when the sky is clear, the Northern Lights can be visible in all their splendor.
– Astronomy Ireland (Source)
– Astronomy Ireland Magazine (Source)