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Trip The Light Fantastic

Northern Lights in the East
Northern Lights in North Norfolk

Norfolk’s night skies have been treated to the rare and beautiful stellar spectacle of the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights – thanks to the awe-inspiring power of a distant solar flare.

It is normally seen much closer to the poles, but during geomagnetic storms the “auroral zone” will expand to include lower latitudes including, very occasionally, parts of England.

All this will come as a bit of a blow to my brother (and co-Kett worker) who travelled all the way to Norway, kitted out for an Arctic expedition no less, in order to see this phenomenon – alas, to no avail…..!!! Not that he’s bitter! Better luck next time Rob, at least you saw the stuffed polar bear.

Back to the lights….Dave Balcombe, chairman of the Norwich Astronomical Society, said: “I have seen two auroras in Norfolk in the last five years, but it is a fairly rare event to get them so far south, especially in summer.”

Chris Bell, a meteorologist, storm-chaser and self-confessed “geek” when it comes to the science of our skies, photographed the aurora last night (Sunday) at Foxley, between Norwich and Fakenham. “It’s nothing to do with the weather – it’s all space stuff,” he said. “We are going towards what is known as the solar maximum, in which the sun produces a lot of sun spots and you get a coronal mass ejection like this one. As it gets pushed towards earth it gets drawn to the poles and reacts with the few chemicals in the top of the atmosphere and produces these beautiful aurora displays.

“It is very rare to see it this far south. I cannot remember another night that has been as active as last night.”

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