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UPDATED: Northern Lights show treat for East Lancashire sky watchers
12:40pm Sunday 2nd March 2014 in East Lancashire
PEOPLE in East Lancashire experienced something rather special as they turned their eyes to the heavens - a rare glimpse of the Northern Lights.
Spectacular red and green lights of the Aurora Borealis lit up skies across the country, the result of a strong magnetic storm.
The Northern Lights are usually visible in only the more northern parts of the UK, but a surge in geomagnetic activity last night led to them appearing much further south than usual.
The display occurs when explosions on the surface of the Sun hurl huge amounts of charged particles into space, according to the British Geological Survey (BGS).
Those thrown towards Earth are captured by its magnetic field and guided towards the geomagnetic polar regions. Charged particles collide with gas molecules in the atmosphere, and the subsequent energy is given off as light.
Geomagnetic storms follow an 11-year "solar cycle", and the last "solar maximum" was last year, according to the BGS.
An East Lancashire doctor who journeyed to Scotland to see the northern lights was stunned to see the display on returning home.
GP Mark Walton, 53, had only been home a day after he and his wife had returned from a trip north of the Cairngorms.
They had been delighted to see a few faint flickers of green aurora borialis as part of the journey in the Highlands.
But the keen amatuer photographer was stunned at the vivid multi coloured display on show over his Burnley home on Thursday night.
The triple spread of colours, rarely seen outside of the arctic circle, lasted for around 40 minutes from 10.30pm.
The father-of-two had been tipped off by friends they had met in Scotland, and had headed out to take pictures.
The former Shadsworth High School pupil said: “I went out in Burnley to check the sky and was amazed to find the aurora displaying here. It was even more spectacular than it had been in Scotland.
“The band of colour even included a lovely red glow which is a very rare colour to see with the lights. I would have loved to have taken a picture of the singing ringing tree but I didn’t know how long the lights would last.”
Green is said to be the most common colour spotted in the night skies, with blue slightly rarer and red the most rarely seen colour.
Skies across the UK were lit up with the spectacular display as far south as Norfolk, Essex and South Wales.
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