The Northern Lights may be viewed as far south as Ireland tonight - because the Sun

NewsBy Shuki Byrne
Due to solar winds the Aurora is expected to drift as far south as Ireland
Due to solar winds the Aurora is expected to drift as far south as Ireland

A severe solar storm is smacking Earth with a surprisingly big geomagnetic jolt, potentially affecting power grids and GPS tracking while pushing the colourful Northern Lights further south.

As a result, the Aurora Borealis, which is commonly seen past the Arctic Circle, is due to drift southwards - and will maybe be visible in the north of the country, and parts of northern Britain. 
The phenomenon, commonly known as the Northern Lights, is expected to move further south over the coming nights, offering people in Ireland a higher chance of glimpsing the eerie green hue.
Twitter account Aurora Alert Ireland tweeted the following image earlier this evening. 
Lancaster University’s Aurora Watch UK confirmed the readings on Twitter, issuing an amber alert this afternoon. This suggests that Aurora sightings are possible in “Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland”.
“This is the strongest solar magnetic storm we have had in the last three years which is really exciting for aurora hunters,” said Jonny Cooper, director of Off the Map Travel.
“Experiencing the Northern Lights is never guaranteed, however, we would recommend going to an area with as little light pollution as possible and uninterrupted views looking north. All we need now is a break in the clouds.”
An astronaut with the International Space Station also tweeted an image of Ireland and the UK in which the Northern Lights are clearly visible. 
Viewers hoping to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon would do best to travel outside of cities where pollution is minimal. 
This particular storm ranks 4 on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's 1-to-5 scale for geomagnetic effects. So far no damage has been reported.
Thomas Berger, director of the Space Weather Prediction Centre in Boulder, Colorado, said two blasts of magnetic plasma left the sun on Sunday, combined and reached Earth today much earlier and stronger than expected.
The storm, which could last for hours, can disrupt power grids only temporarily. Forecasters said auroras had already been seen in the northern tier of the US and may later be seen as far south as the middle United States.
The phenomenon is caused by the sun sending gusts of charged solar particles towards planet earth. When these charged particles enter the atmosphere they come into contact molecules and atoms in the earth's atmosphere.
They particles become excited, and move into a higher energy state before dropping back to a lower state. It is then that a light is emitted.
And although the most famous colour emitted is green, they can also send out blue, red and purple hues. The colour changes depending on what elements are interacted with and where in the atmosphere the interaction occurs.
There have already been sightings of the phenomenon in the UK.