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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 29 July, 2014

Northern Lights might be visible over Ireland tonight

There may be lots of activity in the skies tonight, thanks to solar flare activity – here’s your guide on what to look out for.

Okay, so it's not Donegal (it's Alaska) but there is some chance of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights in the northern skies tonight.
Okay, so it's not Donegal (it's Alaska) but there is some chance of catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights in the northern skies tonight.
Image: AP Photo/M. Scott Moon, File

KEEP YOUR EYES to the skies today, as there may be some dramatic happenings in the night time.

A large solar flare reached the Earth’s magnetic field earlier today, which can lead to some beautiful sights for us here on Earth.

This is the largest solar flare in 10 years, and David Moore, Chairman of Astronomy Ireland, said tonight is the ideal time to keep your eyes peeled for aurora in the Irish skies.

“We’ve been watching it very closely,” he said, pointing out that we won’t be able to see the flare until it is night time in Ireland. However, detectors that can pick up the impact electrically have been able to pinpoint when the flare hit.

The original prediction was that it would hit at anytime from 6am onwards.

We are hoping it is going to last until tonight, which it should do. And there would be an aurora waiting for us in the north. We are telling people all around the country to look north and see if you can see a band of light. You could have rays or curtains within it.

He added that the flare isn’t anticipated to have much of an impact on electronics, telecommunications or satellite navigation systems. “We don’t expect much from this particular event,” he added. “There have been much bigger events in the past. All the power grid operators would be aware of this and would be monitoring the system.”

In 1989, Quebec was thrown into darkness due to disruption to the electricity supply because of a flare.

That was a huge explosion and we don’t expect similar one. This is not going to be the only aurora this year. Maximum activity is not expected until next year and more is expected the year after that.

Astronomy.ie has a free mailing service that will inform people about the flares.  On Monday night at Trinity College, the subject of solar storms will be discussed by NASA scientist Peter Gallagher. This talk is open to all.

While you are keeping your eyes peeled for an aurora, Moore advises to look out for the other special events in the skies:

  • If you look above the moon, you will see the planet Mars. This is the closest it’s going to to be to the earth for two years.
  • Meanwhile, if you stand with the moon to your back, You will see Venus and Jupiter, who are passing by each other.
  • Plus Saturn is closest to earth in April so is beginning to be visible now. It is as bright as the top ten brightest stars and rises when the sun sets.

This slideshow shows aurora borealis put on some of their most spectacular displays over recent years (not in Ireland, sadly). If you manage to take a photograph of the Northern Lights tonight, we’d love to see them – email to tips@thejournal.ie or tweet them to us @thejournal_ie

Northern Lights might be visible over Ireland tonight
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  • Northern Lights

    The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, are seen near the city of Trondheim, Norway on 23 January this year. (AP Photo/Emil Bratt Borsting)
  • Northern Lights

    Northern Lights over Innset, Norway last year. (David Cheskin/PA wire)
  • Northern Lights

    The Northern Lights dance over the Spitsbergen Hotel in Longyearbyen, Norway in 2008. (AP Photo/John McConnico)
  • Northern Lights

    A spectator watches the aurora borealis rise above the Alaska Range in 2006. (AP Photo/M. Scott Moon, File)

Watch: Dramatic solar flares>

Read:  Planets to align over Ireland after sunset tonight>

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