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NASA uses an amazing array of telescopes, cameras, and sensors to watch the universe and report back on the amazing phenomena it observes. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) captured something astounding and lovely on December 14, 2023. NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) Program includes SDO. From its carefully designed orbit that maintains the Sun in view at all times, the craft investigates the magnetic field of the Sun. The largest solar flare since one that was observed in September 2017 was witnessed by the SDO on the 14th when it produced an impressive display of flares that shot from the star's surface.

The flare that occurred in December 2023 originated from AR 3514, a visible active sunspot on the solar surface. An X2.8 type solar flare is what it is classified as. Of the five categories of flares, this one is the strongest. It was one of the "largest explosive events in our solar system," according to NASA, an electromagnetic radiation release. Since it was not directly aimed at Earth, it only momentarily brought about a radio blackout in South America. 

The coronal mass ejection occurred concurrently with the flare. Billions of tonnes of magnetised solar plasma shoot into space at up to 3,000 km/s during a coronal mass ejection (CME), according to Dr Kate Brand, who spoke with Cosmos Magazine. Geomagnetic and ionospheric storms may arise if the material is aimed towards Earth. Both have the potential to seriously impair technology in the environment of near-Earth space. "Coronal mass ejections are not caused by solar flares, but they may or may not be associated with a solar flare," the speaker continued. 

Earth's auroras can be caused by CMEs. The UK Met Office states that "a CME arrival earlier on December 17 is likely to bring some further minor enhancement to the auroral oval." Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern England, and other similar locations were predicted to see some auroras earlier this week. "The beginning of the fast wind from a coronal hole is expected to cause the peak in auroral activity for the upcoming three-day period to occur overnight on December 18–19." It was predicted that viewers as far south as Boston would catch a glimpse. 

Now, the UK Met Office predicts, “A stream of fast winds from a coronal hole may arrive at Earth late on 21 or on 22 Dec, perhaps increasing the chance of visible aurora across the far north of Scotland and similar latitudes.”

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