A strong solar flare launched off the surface of the sun Wednesday and it is triggering the Aurora Borealis, also known as The Northern Lights, in the evening sky Friday Night! It could cause also create some disturbances in Earth's power grid, satellites and radio transmissions. Wednesday's solar flare was classified as an "X-class" flare, which is at the high end of the solar flare scale. The impacts can be hard to predict. Power Outages have been known to occur with X-Class flares. Keeping a flashlight handy may be prudent in case of any outages.
These intense flares bursting off the surface of the Sun help create CME's, short for Coronal Mass Ejection. A CME can contain billions of tons of super-energetic hydrogen and helium ions and particles which hurl towards the Earth riding a Solar wind travelling close to 2 million miles per hour. Considering the Earth is 93 million miles away from the Sun, these CME's typically arrive at our atmosphere 2-3days after the flare.
A CME can affect solar wind flow and "produce disturbances that strike the Earth with sometimes catastrophic results," according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In extreme cases, X-Flares have the capability to knock out the electrical grid which could be devastating and catch much of the population off-guard. Experts say no major disruptions are expected.
The energy from this Solar wind and it's super charged particles interact with the Earth's magnetic field. It traps these particles, many of which travel toward the poles where they are accelerated toward Earth. Collisions between these ions and atmospheric atoms and molecules cause energy releases in the form of auroras appearing in large circles around the poles. Oxygen atoms produce green and red hues. Nitrogen make blue and red hues.
Best viewing will be Friday night in Northern Latitudes, away from lights and later in the evening towards midnight. Make sure to look NORTH. Of course, the Northern Lights can be very elusive and unpredictable. Viewing is not guaranteed. The farther north you are, the better the chance you will have. If you catch a glimpse, please send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to see them!
Watch a solar flare animation here.