The Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights, are a mystical and shimmering phenomenon that occasionally lights up our skies.

It can be seen near the poles of both the northern and southern hemispheres with it being aurora borealis in the north and aurora australis in the south.

The phenomenon is caused by electrically charged particles from the Sun travelling millions of miles getting caught in the Earth’s magnetic field.

These particles accelerate down towards the north and south poles into the atmosphere, which essentially heats them up and creates the effect.

Wiltshire Times: The aurora is concentrated at the Earth's north and south polesThe aurora is concentrated at the Earth's north and south poles (Image: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire)

Also, the different colours in the atmosphere are caused by different gases burning as part of this process with green being characteristic of oxygen while hints of purple, blue or pink are caused by nitrogen, Royal Museums Greenwich reports.

Sightings of the Aurora Borealis have appeared to be more frequent in recent years, and have even been seen as far down as counties in southern England.

But what is the cause of all of this?

Why have Aurora Borealis sightings increased this year?

In short Aurora Borealis sightings have increased in recent years and the explanation is well known in the science community, according to the Met Office.

Krista Hammond, a Manager at the Met Office Space Weather Operations Centre (MOSWOC), said: “Activity on the sun, and in particular the number of visible sunspots, varies over roughly an 11-year period, known as the solar cycle.”

The last solar minimum, which is when the Sun had the lowest frequency of visible sunspots in the solar cycle, occurred in December 2019.

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This means that the sun’s activity is currently increasing, with the next solar maximum expected around 2025.

As a result, more of the Sun's electrically charged particles are travelling towards the Earth and getting caught in its magnetic field, thus producing more of the aurora effect.

Krista added: “Over the coming years, as we continue towards the solar maximum, we can expect to see an increase in the frequency of space weather events, with more chances to see the Aurora Borealis over the UK.”