The best place to check out Christmas lights this year is up in the sky. Late Friday afternoon an extremely active area of the sun, known as Active Region2242, erupted in a gigantic solar flare. It was documented by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory and was, in fact, one of the most intense solar flares possible. So powerful, that it cause power outages here on Earth.
Specialists say that given the activity in the area more sun storms like this are likely to happen, though probably not as intense. The less intense sun storms are categorized as Class- M, according to NASA. The stronger ones, such as the one we experienced on Friday, are Class-X. Class-X flares are 10 times as powerful as Class-M and, as mentioned, have the ability to interfere with Earth's satellites and other communications if headed in the right direction.
Class-M flares aren't so destructive, but they are note-worthy. A Class-M solar flare produces amazing displays of Northern Lights and researchers announced that they are expecting multiple Class-M flares to occur this weekend.
What is a solar flare and how can you enjoy its light display?
A solar flare is a large energy release that can be equivalent to 160 trillion megatons of TNT. The Hiroshima bomb in comparison was approximately three megatons. They're triggered by intense activity in magnetic fields in sun spots. They can also be categorized under A, B, or C according to intensity.
Though the research is there, and scientists can see much of the activity in AR 2242, pinpointing when a solar flare will occur and its magnitude are still very unpredictable. So, if you're lucky enough to catch one of the gorgeous displays that are predicted for the next few days enjoy it like you would any holiday light display - under the night sky with family and friends.