Highlands & Islands

Shetland, Orkney and Mull pupils to help monitor Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis
Image caption School pupils will use equipment to detect changes in the Earth's magnetic field that causes the Northern Lights

Three schools in Scotland have been selected to take part in a project monitoring for the Aurora Borealis.

Brae High School on Shetland, Sanday Community School on Orkney and Tobermory High School on Mull will be sent a device called a magnetometer.

Schools in England and Wales have also been chosen for the project run by Lancaster University's AuroraWatch UK.

Data gathered by pupils will be linked to a system that alerts the public to when the Northern Lights can be seen.

Image caption Raspberry Pi computers will process measurements from the magnetometers

Magnetometers designed and built by the Department of Physics at Lancaster University detect changes in the Earth's magnetic field caused by the electric currents responsible for the Aurora Borealis.

The measurements are sent by radio to a Raspberry Pi, a small low-cost computer developed in Cambridge, for processing.

AuroraWatch UK operates a free alert system to notify users by email, Twitter and Facebook when the Northern Lights may be visible from the UK. The system has more than 100,000 subscribers.

Last summer, the university's space physicists started putting together a list of the best places in the UK where people could photograph the Aurora Borealis.

Some of the best places in the UK to see the "lights" are in Scotland and include the Northern and Western isles and Caithness and Sutherland.

Aberdeen's associations with the Aurora Borealis are celebrated in the local song, The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen

In the past, the city's tourist information staff have been asked when the "lights were turned on" by visitors unsure of what causes the displays.

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