The Aurora Borealis – better known as the Northern Lights – has been giving rare and spectacular displays over parts of the UK, from the north of Scotland to as far south as Essex and Gloucestershire.

The lights have also been clearly visible in places such as Orkney, Norfolk, and south Wales.

Stonehaven war memorial, Aberdeenshire

The display, which is caused by electrically charged particles from the Sun entering the Earth’s atmosphere, led to scenes such as this one at the Stonehaven war memorial, Aberdeenshire.

Wick, in Caithness

Mark Thompson, presenter of BBC’s Stargazing Live, said he had not been expecting a display as spectacular as it was in places such as Wick, in Caithness.

Orkney, in Scotland

Mr Thompson said the display, which was also seen in Orkney, happens when solar wind, or electronically charged particles, are ejected from the Sun. He said: “They take two or three days to get here and when they do get here they cause the gas atoms in the sky to glow. It is as simple as that.”

Northern Lights in Gloucestershire

The astronomer said: “Three or four days ago the Sun will have thrown a lot of this stuff out in an event called a Coronal Mass Ejection, and they would have been travelling towards the Earth since. It all depends how active the Sun has been.” This photograph was taken in Gloucestershire.

The Northern Light is Foxley, Norfolk

Mr Thompson said the particles were usually pulled towards the North Pole but “if there is enough of them they will travel further down towards the equator and cause the lights to go further south”, such as here, in Foxley, Norfolk

Northern Lights in Norfolk

“It is just good luck,” Mr Thompson said. “The last time I have seen it this spectacular was probably 20 years ago.”

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