TORONTO – If it’s clear the next few nights, you might want to get out and look up: There’s a chance you might catch the northern lights.
The sun unleashed an X-1.6 solar flare Wednesday that was pointed right at Earth.
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Solar flares are measured by the amount of x-rays they emit, which is classified by the letters C, M and to the strongest, X.
Graph shows the X-flare that was released on Wednesday. NOAA/Space Weather Prediction Center
Graph shows the X-flare that was released on Wednesday.
NOAA/Space Weather Prediction Center
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These flares are sudden releases of magnetic energy from the sun. The particles race toward Earth creating radio blackouts and disturbances in our atmosphere. Flares can arrive within minutes.
These releases of energy are also associated with coronal mass ejections (CME) which eject plasma into space. Depending on the speed of the release, they can reach Earth within hours or days.
READ MORE: How solar storms could leave us in the dark
NASA will be closely monitoring the sun to determine whether or not a CME was released from the site. If so, that means that these highly energetic particles will be aimed right at Earth. Once they get here, they will interact with our magnetopshere triggering aurora. It all depends on how strong the blast was.
Northern lights as they dance across the sky near Arthur, Ont.
Courtesy Dave Patrick
On top of this solar flare, the sun erupted with a solar flare and long-duration CME on Tuesday. Though it wasn’t an X-flare (it was an M4), it was strong. It will only give the Earth a glancing blow during the early hours of Sept. 12.
So with all this solar activity, there’s a good chance that we will be treated to a light show sometime this week.
Stayed tuned for updates.