PEOPLE across the UK have been treated to spectacular displays of the Northern Lights, a phenomenon that is normally best seen in northern Scotland.

Although the lights were clearly visible in places as far afield as Orkney, Aberdeenshire and Glasgow, the colour green, blue, yellow and red hues have lit up the skyline and landmarks south of the Border too.

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People turned their smartphones and cameras skywards to catch the lights - officially known as aurora borealis - in Preston, Lancashire, and in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside.

Alex Green, who works for the National Trust in Norfolk, said: "Wow, a life tick! NorthernLights over the north Norfolk Coast and visible with the naked eye! Just amazing!"

Richard Wilson, from Guildford, Surrey, saw the aurora from the air. He tweeted: "Great view of the northern lights from 30,000 feet over Scotland tonight. Awesome sight!"

The Northern Lights are usually visible in only the more northern parts of the UK, but a surge in geomagnetic activity last night led to them appearing much further south than usual.

The display occurs when explosions on the surface of the Sun hurl huge amounts of charged particles into space, according to the British Geological Survey (BGS).

Those thrown towards Earth are captured by its magnetic field and guided towards the geomagnetic polar regions. Charged particles collide with gas molecules in the atmosphere, and the subsequent energy is given off as light.

Geomagnetic storms follow an 11-year "solar cycle", and the last "solar maximum" was last year, according to the BGS.