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Northern Lights will shine brighter on Christmas Eve

According to the UK Met Office, the Northern Lights will be particularly strong around the North Pole on Christmas Eve. This phenomenon is linked to a solar storm that erupted from the Sun on Monday, December 20, due to a coronal mass ejection (CME) – a powerful eruption of magnetically charged particles and plasma from the Sun’s corona.

The Northern Lights, or Auroras (Aurora borealis at the North Pole, and Aurora australis at the South Pole), have fascinated scientists and stargazers for centuries. They are usually caused by charged particles from solar winds that are colliding with the Earth’s magnetic field and redirected above the poles. 

The Earth has an invisible forcefield, the magnetosphere, which protects us from dangerous particles emanating from the Sun. “Whilst it shelters us, it also creates one of the most impressive phenomena on Earth – the Northern Lights,” explained science reporter Marty Jopson.

“When the deadly solar winds meet Earth’s magnetosphere, some of the charged particles get trapped, and are propelled down the Earth’s magnetic field lines straight towards the poles. And when they reach Earth, they strike atoms and molecules in our atmosphere, releasing energy in the form of light.” 

The solar storm that started on Monday is not strong enough to disrupt satellite services and knock out power grids, as some solar storms do. However, it will make the Northern Lights appear much brighter on Christmas Eve. 

“The auroral oval is likely to be slightly enhanced at high latitudes from the 22nd to 24th due to coronal hole geomagnetic activity enhancement, and the chance of a weak coronal mass ejection arriving on the 23rd,” the Met Office said. 

In Europe, the Northern Lights will be visible from Iceland, Finland and Norway, while in North America they will be best seen in Alaska, and Alberta, Canada.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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