The strongest solar flare in the last six years was emitted on Thursday, December 14th, peaking around 12:02 p.m. EST. To clarify, according to NASA, a solar flare is a powerful burst of energy released from the sun that could impact radio communications, electric power grids, navigation signals, and even threaten spacecraft and astronauts.
Thursday’s flare was categorized as an X2.8 flare. Flares are measured in strength by classes ranging from B (weakest) to C, M and X (strongest). The number following the class denotes more information in regards to the flares strength, ranging 1 (weakest) – 9 (strongest). Historically however, X class flares can surpass 9. In 2003, one was classified to be as high as an X45, according to CBS.
Now how can this solar flare make the Northern Lights visible on the East Coast, more specifically New England? Well that’s because Northern Lights can become visible when solar flares occur and directs a coronal mass ejection toward Earth. The stronger the ejections, the more likely the Northern Lights are to appear.
And since Thursday’s flare was one of the strongest since assumably 2017 and of Solar Cycle 25 (our current solar cycle), it’s “safe to say, there is a very good chance that a few days from now, there may be a dramatic increase in activity of the aurora borealis, perhaps even as far south as New England,” reported CBS.