Solar Flares

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.



2 thoughts on “Solar Flares

  1. William Spencer Hershon

    I had no idea that solar flares could cause such damage. Except for very rare occasions I thought that solar flares had no apparent effect on our day to day lives. I never thought about what would happen if a major flare hit us. But now that you’ve put the thought and the outcomes in my head it’s quite an interesting topic to research. If our entire communications system was shut down what would actually happen to the human lifestyle? Would it crumble? Does the government have a contingency plan in case this does happen? Do we have anything to prevent this? And how accurate is the science behind the probability of a major flare? All these questions have to be answered and hopefully by a reliable source. I would also like to know if this would have any effect on radio waves, since these are not sent by satellites orbiting earth. And do solar flares have any effects on other planets or the sun itself? You’ve begun a discussion on an interesting topic but seem to have opened more question than you answered. But that’s okay I will conduct my own research and hopefully find the answers to some of these questions.

  2. Gregory Joseph Macqueen

    I never knew that solar flares could have that big of an effect on Earth. I strongly agree that in today’s modern society people simply would not know what to do if we had to give up our electronics for an extended period of time. We have become so dependent on our phones and other mobile devices we can do almost anything from the comfort of our own home. In the article I posted below, there is some very interesting information regarding solar flares and their impact on Earth. I was very unaware of the dangerous effects that they can have on us such as interruption in communications to airplanes and increase risks of radiation exposure. Although the risk of any major harm or disruptions to our planet is unlikely this is still something that scientists should keep an eye on.

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