What does Aurora Borealis actually mean?


The Northern Lights are expected to be seen again over Britain this evening after a series of dazzling natural light shows this weekend. The night of Friday May 10 saw the most impressive Aurora Borealis displays as the Northern Lights were photographed in Kingston, Croydon and Bromley, among others.

A cluster of sunspots appears to have merged together to form a giant super sunspot 17 times the size of Earth, firing massive solar flares and plasma at our planet. This meant an “extreme” solar storm of category G5 was sent to Earth – the highest classification.

When these come into contact with the Earth, the Earth's magnetic field interacts with them and creates this beautiful ethereal play of colors in our sky. The last time a G5 storm hit the earth, it caused power outages in Sweden in October 2003.

READ MORE: New Northern Lights warning for England on Sunday May 12 – and how to get phone alerts

As we look forward to another night of Northern Lights, many people are wondering where the official term “Aurora Borealis” comes from. If one adopts the simple translation from Latin, the word “Aurora” means “dawn,” while “Borealis” refers to the event that takes place in the Northern Hemisphere.

Aurora Borealis was seen over the UK this weekendAurora Borealis was seen over the UK this weekend

Aurora Borealis is visible over the UK this weekend – Source: Ahmet Fevzi Arican/Anadolu via Getty Images

Since these natural light displays also occurred in Tasmania and Argentina this weekend, the technical term for them is Aurora Australis since they occurred in the Southern Hemisphere.

The term Aurora Borealis was coined by the Italian astronomer Galileo in 1619. He used the name of the Roman goddess of the dawn, Aurora, and the Greek god of the north wind, Boreas.

Mythology says that Aurora traveled from east to west and heralded the coming of the sun, while the ancient Greeks used the appropriate name Eos for the dawn and often mentioned its play of colors in the otherwise dark sky.

As with Borealis, the term Australis refers to the god of the south wind, Oyster. This evening (Sunday May 12th) the Northern Lights are expected to grace our skies again.

Channel 4 weather presenter Liam Dutton said on This means another strong or extreme geomagnetic storm is likely.

“Therefore, there may be another observation of the Aurora Borealis across the UK on Sunday evening – clouds permitting.” He later added: “Geomagnetic activity will increase again today, but like last night, the peak of the Activity may not coincide with darkness.” Additionally, there will be a lot more clouds tonight and breakthrough times will be limited. So the probability of discovering the will is slightly lower.”

Scientist group AuroraWatch UK issued a yellow warning on Sunday morning (May 12), saying the phenomenon could be visible by eye in some areas and with camera equipment in more areas. This weekend the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, appeared after the Met Office confirmed a rare severe geomagnetic storm warning for this weekend – the first in almost 20 years.

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