Northern lights could be amplified by a solar storm before Christmas

The coronal mass eruption is expected to reach Earth Thursday, Dec. 23.

Northern lights could be amplified by a solar storm before Christmas

According to the U.K. Met Office space forecasting center, a solar storm that erupted out of the sun on Monday (Dec.20) could boost northern lights displays around North Pole just before Santa's visit this weekend.

A coronal mass eruption, or CME, was responsible for the solar storm. This is a powerful explosion of magnetically charged particles, plasma, and outer layers of the sun's atmosphere called the corona. CMEs, when directed at Earth can cause geomagnetic storms to disrupt satellite services and shut down power grids. These events can also cause auroras to increase in the areas around the North-South Poles.

Monday's CME (which burst from Earth at 6:36 AM EST (1136 GMT) was expected to reach Earth Thursday, Dec. 23. According to Spaceweather.com, it was caused by a powerful M1.9-class solar eruption that originated from an active sunspot called Active Region2908.

The Met Office stated on its website that "the auroral oval will likely be slightly enhanced at higher latitudes between the 22nd and 24th due coronal hole geomagnetic activation enhancement and the possibility of a weak coronal masses ejection arriving on 23rd."

According to the European Space Agency (ESA), the sun has been very active in the last week, with many active regions rising up on its scorching surface during the lead-up to Christmas.

According to the Met Office, the geomagnetic storm that was triggered by Monday's CME was expected to be minor. Geomagnetic storms are caused by charged particles from the sun interacting with the planet's magnet field. These particles will be directed above the poles by the Earth's magnetic fields, which is why you see auroras in these areas.

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