Rogue Lawnmower Causes False Northern Lights Alert

By James O Malley on at

Aurora Watch UK, which monitors the Northern Lights, sent out a massive "RED ALERT" on Tuesday after sensors detected a huge increase in geomagnetic activity. But rather than brace ourselves for an imminent and amazing light show, it turns out that the source of the increase was much more mundane: A lawnmower.

(Pic via Aurora Watch UK user Lynn Hedley on Facebook.)

The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis is the name given to the lights emitted when the Earth's magnetic field is disturbed by solar winds. It can only usually be seen at much higher altitudes.

The organisation is run by scientists in the Space and Planetary Physics group at Lancaster University’s Department of Physics. It has magnetometers monitoring geomagnetic activity all over the world - but it was literally on home turf in Lancaster that the 'spike' was detected.

The alert went out at 14:25, and if it had been real it would have meant the lights would have been visible across the UK. Sadly though, the alert was later withdrawn, with the organisation saying that "we believe the interference was caused by University staff mowing the grass on a sit-on mower."


[Via BBC]