This year, Christmas feels a little more special than usual. Last year, many people had to stay away from their families. Countless people around the world had to work extra hard to have some semblance of a merry Christmas. As a result, everyone seems to be going all-out on holiday cheer this year. Even Mother Nature is getting in on the festivities. Some people may be able to see the northern lights this Christmas.
According to SpaceWeather.com, the sun experienced “multiple M-class flares” in the past week. As a result, two small coronal mass ejections began hurtling toward Earth. Basically, these are blasts of plasma from the sun’s outer layer. The coronal mass ejections will strike Earth’s magnetic field this week. They speculate that the first will make contact today, December 23rd. The second will hit on December 25th. Both CMEs have the potential to cause northern lights-style auroras, and one just happens to be scheduled for Christmas Day.
Solar Flares and Northern Lights for Christmas: Good News & Bad News
Solar flares are a cosmic double-edged sword. They can cause some serious issues here on Earth. They can wreak havoc on the power grid, satellite communications, and astronauts in space. Conversely, they can light up the northern sky for Christmas.
Unfortunately, most of us probably won’t be able to see the auroras caused by the solar flares. SpaceWeather reports that the auroras will be isolated to high latitude areas. For the most part, they will be limited to areas near the poles. For instance, our neighbors to the north in Canada might get to see the northern lights this Christmas. Additionally, Alaskan residents might be in luck.
The rest of us will, unfortunately, have to stick to looking at regular Christmas lights this year. It could be worse, though. Solar flares could cause days-long power and internet outages. Luckily, these solar flares aren’t that strong. However, a solar flare strong enough to bring the northern lights to the continental US might also be strong enough to put a damper on your Christmas plans.
There’s Plenty More to See This Christmas
Don’t be too upset about missing out on the northern lights this Christmas, there’s plenty more to see. For instance, Comet Leonard is visible from Earth right now. It’s the brightest comet of the year and will be on the southwestern horizon just after sundown on Christmas.
In a way, seeing Comet Leonard, or “the Christmas Comet” as some are calling it, is more special than seeing the northern lights. Those happen regularly in high latitude areas. However, this massive glowing ball of ice has been zipping through space for over 30,000 years and might meet its end if it comes too close to the sun in early January.