At 12:02 a.m. ET on Thursday, a massive X-class solar flare — the strongest kind — was launched from the Sun. It is the most intense in the Sun’s current 11-year cycle and has been seen at its most powerful since September 10, 2017.

Solar flares are intense bursts of radiation from sunspots. X-class flares are the most intense, followed by M-, C-, B-, and A-class flares. On Friday, the Sun unleashed an M-class flare on the heels of Jupiter’s massive outburst.

After Jupiter’s burnout, high-energy particles bombarded Earth eight minutes later. They triggered a shortwave radio blackout over Central and South America, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described as “a spectacular event” and “one of the largest solar radio events ever recorded.”

Several US National Weather Service aviation centers reported interference and reduced signal quality.

Now attention turns to Saturday and Sunday, when the flare’s associated “coronal mass ejection,” or CME, of magnetic and solar material could impact Earth. A slow-moving object takes two days to reach Earth. Once it arrives, however, it is known to cause a geomagnetic storm, pulsing through the Earth’s magnetic field that is converted into visible light – the aurora or northern lights.

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Will we see the Northern Lights?

Aurora is difficult to predict. There are only two main ways to directly observe the coronal mass ejection before its arrival.

Soon after one happens, we see it from solar and heliospheric observatory satellites peering into the Sun’s corona, or atmosphere. Scientists have to wait two days for the CME to reach the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite, which is about 1 million miles from Earth. This provides an hour’s warning before a CME actually hits Earth.

It is like a tsunami at the far end of an ocean; You know that It did, but after a long time, you didn’t know if it was actually aimed at you until the end of your dock suddenly started moving. By then, it will be too late to prepare.

In this case, we know that a CME is sent into space by a flare. We are in that weird time frame before DSCOVR gives last second confirmation. At this point, the shoulder of the CME can at least tilt the Earth sideways, causing a geomagnetic storm. That expectation based on modelingIt shows the “shock wave” propagating through space.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is calling for at least a G1 geomagnetic storm intermittently over the next three days. That should allow the aurora to slide into southern Canada. A more significant G2 or G3 geomagnetic storm cannot be ruled out, which could dump the aurora over North America.

The geomagnetic storm is predicted to be shorter than on November 30 and December 1, when the Northern Lights were seen as far south as Arizona and Virginia, but there are sometimes surprises.

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Importance of volcanoes

The intensity of the original sunlight is impressive. There are an average of 100 to 150 X-class flares in an 11-year solar cycle. We are approaching the peak of the solar cycle, which should arrive in 2024.

Solar flares and coronal mass ejections originate from sunspots. More sunspots, better chance of flares and CMEs. That is why solar activity is expected to continue to increase through the peak of the solar cycle. Skywatchers should be alert – chances of seeing the Northern Lights will increase in the coming months.

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