The aurora borealis, or northern lights, is a common occurrence around the Arctic Circle, but the otherworldly light show was clearly visible on Wednesday night in northern parts of England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis

The aurora is caused by solar particles, thrown into space due to activity on the sun's surface, that collide with the Earth's magnetic field, and can be viewed around the polar regions as lights of blue, green, yellow and red.

Usually, the northern lights can be seen from Scandinavia, Greenland, Alaska, Canada and Russia, but forecasters say that the current positions of the Earth and Sun may give residents of the UK a number of chances to glimpse the phenomenon over the next few weeks.

An official spokesman for the Met Office said: "We are now in a period, lasting a few weeks, where these two factors are working together to increase the chances of geomagnetic disturbances, which in turn bring with them the aurora.

"The strength of the disturbance directly relates to how far south the aurora is visible, or how far north if you are in the southern hemisphere, and of course you need clear skies to see it.

"The season of the year has an influence. The science behind this is not fully understood, but the two equinoctial periods in spring and autumn tend to produce an increase in aurora compared with winter and summer."

Excited social media users, such as Stuart Stevenson, shared photos of the phenomenon on Twitter.