Fashion designer and illustrator Sara O’Neill shares images of dazzling northern lights

FASHION designer and illustrator Sara O’Neill has described how she stumbled across witnessing the dazzling northern lights that illuminated the night sky on Sunday.

Perfect weather conditions saw green, purple and pink colours appear in the skies as one of the best displays of the lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, were seen in many parts of Northern Ireland.

Ms O’Neill was at home in Castlerock when her partner Al Mennie spotted the light phenomenon. Within minutes, the couple were rushing down to the nearby beach to take in in all.

“It was spectacular and very unexpected,” she said.

“I had just been finishing off a bit of work when Al shouted in for me to look outside and he said he thought it was the northern lights.

“We quickly headed down to Castlerock beach, which is literally on our doorstep, and we could see it so clearly.

“There was no-one else there watching, a few people about walking their dogs, but hadn’t even seemed to notice.

“But it was very obvious in the sky. It appeared to move and dance in the sky, it was an arc shape at one stage, it kept changing.

“I just took the photos with my iPhone as I wanted to capture it as it was. We stayed for ages, I’d say for an hour, and it got to the stage where we thought we have to get home, but it was still there in the sky. We were very spoiled to be able to get to see it.”

The scene at Castlerock beach on Sunday. Picture from Sara O’Neill


People living in Co Donegal and Co Sligo were also among the lucky ones to see the northern lights with hundreds of people gathering to watch the sky at Rosses Point.

The Met Office said the light phenomenon was also spotted in North Uist in Scotland, North Wales, Cambridgeshire and Shropshire.

Mark Gibbs from the Met Office said the combination of a cloud-free sky, clear air and a dim moon allowed members of the public to see over long distances with little light pollution, and spot the northern lights.

The activity seen was the result of a solar storm, he said, adding that it was a “bubble of magnetised plasma particles that had come off the sun, and they happened to be heading towards the Earth in this instance”.

“It took about two days for those particles to arrive from the sun, then the particles enter the Earth’s upper atmosphere and excite atoms.

“The most common sight is green, which is the result of oxygen atoms being excited. (Sunday) night we saw some reds and purples, indicative of nitrogen atoms being excited.”

The scene at Castlerock beach on Sunday. Picture from Sara O’Neill


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