In this day and age of man, technology has rapidly taken over people’s lives in the matter of a few short years. The increase in use of mobile phones, internet, GPS services has caused many to become dependent on their attachment to the outside world from a small device in their hands. What would happen if total communications were shut down between everyone even for a couple minutes? Is there anything that can cause such a threat?
Solar flares can pose a significant threat to our satellites and other electronics. A solar flare is when there is a large buildup of magnetic energy in the solar atmosphere and it is suddenly released. Radiation will be emitted and the energy expulsion is equivalent to that of one hundred megaton hydrogen bombs (Hesperia). The radiation that is released reaches Earth at the speed of light and ionizes the upper part of our atmosphere, which leads to events at the North and South poles called auroras. Another effect of the radiation is that if the solar flare hits the Earth straight on the satellites will be fried, causing major disruptions in communication and energy output. Widespread power outages can occur, major transformers can be damaged, and it would all take years to fix (Science).
One such event hit the Earth in September of 1859, where the solar flare was so huge it could be observed by eye. The damage that it caused to global telegraph lines shut down the ‘Victorian Internet’ (Science). Could you imagine if such a flare hit the Earth today? The effect would be disastrous. Physicist Pete Riley studied reports of solar storms and through a series of calculations predicted that the probability of a solar flare of this magnitude hitting the Earth in the next ten years is at 12% (Science). Even though the percent is on the lower side, people would still need to be prepared.