One in eight Britons saw the Northern Lights last week

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
May 15, 2024, 9:33 AM GMT+0

For the vast majority, it was their first time doing so

Last week saw the most powerful series of solar storms to affect the Earth for twenty years. While the electromagnetic interference might have been a bother for Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites, much of the Northern hemisphere was treated to a captivating display of the aurora borealis, with photographers across the world sharing photos of the northern lights in their rare purple form.

Now a new YouGov poll shows that one in eight Britons (12%) caught the spectacular solar storm show over the weekend. A further 33% say they looked for the lights, but in the end could not see them.

Unsurprisingly those who live in the northernmost reaches of the country were the most likely to see the lights – 18% of Scots did so, as did 15% in the North of England. Londoners were the least likely to, at 7%, having had to contend not only with the capital’s southerly location but also the intense light pollution surrounding the city.

For 80% of those who did manage to see the aurora this weekend, it was the first time they had ever seen the Northern Lights in real life.

Most Britons want to see the northern lights

Much of the population will be jealous of those who did manage to catch this weekend’s heavenly performance. Overall, 66% of Britons say they have never seen the aurora, but want to do so. This compares to only 9% who have not seen it but don’t feel like they are missing out.

Around one in four Britons have ever seen the northern lights, including 20% who want to do so again and 3% who have seen them but aren’t interested in repeating the experience.

Given their advantageous position, Scots are notably more likely to have ever seen the aurora (37%) than their English and Welsh counterparts (21-22%).

Normally a plane ticket is required to reach a destination where the northern lights can be reliably spotted – typically Iceland or Norway. Our survey shows that one in six Britons (18%) have ever taken a holiday where the primary motivation for going on the holiday was to see a natural phenomenon or natural wonder in that location.

For a more detailed look across 30 markets at consumers’ reasons for choosing a holiday destination, as well as a host of other insights on brand consideration, preferred locations, booking methods, accommodation and transportation preferences, contact us about YouGov Global Travel Profiles.

See the full results here

What do you think of the northern lights, natural wonder tourism, and everything else? Have your say, join the YouGov panel, and get paid to share your thoughts. Sign up here.

Photo: Getty

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