The ‘dream-like’ Northern Light spectacular will be clearly visible in Irish skies in the coming weeks – with Donegal the ideal location to view the Aurora Borealis phenomenon.
Astrologists are confident that the solar light show, one of the world’s most famous, will be its clearest in over a decade due to a peak in the sun’s activity.
Stargazers describe the Northern Lights as a light show of ghostly, wispy rays of greenish and whitish colours dancing across the heavens.
Donegal based astronomer Brendan Alexander has urged people to make the effort to catch the show in the coming weeks with those placed further north, and away from city lights, best positioned to enjoy the Aurora Borealis in all its glory.
“It’s definitely worth seeking out,” said Alexander. “It’s an event that, especially on these shores, is so rare.
“But we are lucky to live just north enough to experience it, any country further south than us won’t be able to see it.”
Alexander believes Irish stargazers have an excellent chance of seeing the Northern Lights in all its glory between now and the equinox in March.
Explaining the phenomena, he revealed that the sun has a heartbeat every 11 years or so. When the solar cycle erupts, charged particles blast into space and are sucked into the North Pole.
When these explosions react with the earth’s atmosphere, great swathes of coloured light spark over the night skies. Native North Americans call them the Dance of the Spirits.
“It is really captivating, just the sheer strangeness of it means it’s worthwhile seeking it out,” added Alexander who witnessed the phenomenon for the second time off the Donegal coast last March.
A postgraduate studying for a Research Masters Degree in Science at Letterkenny Institute of Technology, Alexander said observers should give their eyes about 20 minutes to adapt to the dark before looking towards the northern horizon for a whitish or greenish dome of light.
“From time to time you will see rays shoot up from the dome of light, across the horizon, and if it gets really active you can see the rays moving across the base of the dome, and they can shoot right up to the centre of the sky,” he said.
“When you are watching the display it’s very eerie, almost alien. It’s like nothing you have seen before.”
Free alerts on expected sightings are available via Alexander’s website at www.donegalskies.com.
Here's a timelapse video of the Northern Lights taken in Canada: