A Solar Storm that erupted from the sun on Monday (Dec. 20) may boost northern lights displays around the north pole just ahead of Santa’s trip this weekend, the U.K. Met Office space weather forecasting center said Wednesday (Dec. 22).
The Solar Storm was caused by a coronal mass ejection, or CME, a powerful eruption of magnetically charged particles and plasma from the outer layer of the sun’s atmosphere, the corona. When directed at Earth, CMEs can trigger geomagnetic storms that can disrupt satellite services and knock out power grids. A more pleasant side-effect of these events is the increase of auroras in the regions around the North and South Poles, where these magnificent displays take place.
Monday’s CME, which burst from the sun at 6:36 a.m. EST (1136 GMT), is expected to reach Earth on Thursday (Dec. 23). It stemmed from a powerful M1.9-class solar flare that erupted from a sunspot called Active Region 2908.ESA Space Weather Network, the sun has been quite busy in the past week with several active regions springing up on its scorching surface in the run-up to Christmas.
The geomagnetic storm triggered by the Monday CME is only expected to be minor.Geomagnetic storms occur when charged particles from the sun interact with the planet’s magnetic field. The Earth’s magnetic field lines will redirect these particles above the poles, which is why we see auroras in these regions.