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  • Writer's pictureJohn

Dark Skies!


This is the next blog in the Discovery series which is about the Dark skies of Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. The International Dark Skies Association (IDA) has awarded parts of the county as a Dark Skies Park.

Apart from star gazing opportunities it is also possible to see the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) from this area. This link to an archived BBC shows Berwick-Upon-Tweed on the 7th photo down.

The Kielder Observatory is about 55 miles to the south of Norham and is well worth a visit. Due to Covid-19 their event capacity has been reduced and even in normal times booking in advance is absolutely essential as events are usually fully booked. It’s close to a 2 hour drive on some remote roads and depending on the start time of your chosen event, do consider staying locally. The Staff were knowledgeable and made our visit enjoyable. If visiting during midge season I can recommend Avon’s Skin So Soft spray. (Like most things it’s subjective!)

I am no astrological expert and have cut & paste from google a brief explanation of the Northern Lights.

When charged particles from the sun strike atoms in Earth's atmosphere, they cause electrons in the atoms to move to a higher-energy state. When the electrons drop back to a lower energy state, they release a photon: light. This process creates the beautiful aurora, or northern lights.’

The good news is that solar storms can be forecast like the weather on earth, which sometimes can be wrong! for example . If you scroll down the left side of the homepage there is a map of the earth with the current Auroral Oval and Planetary k-index. Basically the higher this number the more likely the Northern Lights could be been seen. (I think 5 and above is a good number?)

There are numerous apps for smart phones.

At the time of writing I use a free app by Aurorawatch Uk and receive free ‘amber’ alerts meaning it is likely to see the Northern Lights by eye from Scotland/Northern England. (Be aware that if alerts are active they may come through in the early hours. Or select none instead.)

Again using google the following text suggests the best times.

‘In the UK, the nights are too light through summer, so the best chance is from September to April, between 10pm and 2am. The darker the skies, the better, so winter is ideal for clear views. But autumn and spring can also be good viewing periods.’


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Very Interesting talk at Kielder Observatory. I can recommend as they catered for all ages and knowledge!

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