South Shields enjoys spectacular display as Northern Lights illuminate night skies

Star gazers in South Shields enjoyed a spectacular display on Friday night (January 14) as the dark winter skies were illuminated by the aurora borealis – the Northern Lights.

By Neil Fatkin
Saturday, 15th January 2022, 4:48 pm
Updated Sunday, 16th January 2022, 1:00 pm

The lights are usually only clearly visible at more northerly latitudes but a combination of a clear night sky and intense solar activity resulted in large parts of the north enjoying the atmospheric performance.

Photographs sent to the Gazette by Steven Lomas show shimmering waves of yellow and green above Littlehaven Beach and Herd Groyne Lighthouse.

Steven, 35, who works as a professional photographer, said: “There’s an app I use which tracks where the lights have been seen. It said the lights were building and with a clear sky I decided to take a chance.

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"I normally go to Souter Lighthouse but I decided to come down to Littlehaven Beach and I couldn’t believe how bright the lights were.

"They appeared at around 8.30pm and intensified as the night went on. The camera really picked them up but they were also very bright to the naked eye.”

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The lights are caused when particles from the sun hit the earths atmosphere at intense speeds of up to 45 million mph and are redirected by the planets magnetic field towards the Poles.

The aurora borealis could be seen above the skies of South Shields last night (January 14). Photograph: Steven Lomas

Steven, 35, said: “I’ve been photographing the aurora borealis for six years and for five years the sun wasn’t particularly active and so you didn’t get many opportunities to see the lights this far south.

"The sun is particularly active at the moment and last night the lights were seen as far south as South Wales. When you get a lot of solar explosions and activity that is when the lights become a lot more visible and there is a higher probability of seeing them further south.

"The strength of the lights can also be affected by how bright the moon is.”

The aurora borealis above Herd Groyne Lighthouse. Photograph: Steven Lomas

Anyone interested in seeing the Northern Lights can download a number of apps which track and provide updates on where they have been seen and are likely to be observed. The app which Steven uses and recommends is the Glendale App.

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