Here Comes the Sun - Solar Storms
Image Source - Solar Storm
The recent solar activity has created much interest around the world as we brace ourselves for a solar storm. The event has also generated a lot of hype, as usually happens when events hit the media. On one end of the spectrum, we have the superstitious who are calling this the beginning of the end because of the 2012 prophecies, and on the other side of the spectrum, we have those who are just waiting for a pretty light show in the sky. We have heard all sorts of technical explanations, however there are still those people who do not yet understand if we are in any danger or not.
So what are solar storms, and why should we be worried? In layman’s terms, solar storms are gushes of solar energy which the sun emits periodically. If the Earth happens to be in the way of these gushes, otherwise known as Coronal Mass Ejections, the magnetic field surrounding the Earth will be hit with such a force that can knock down entire energy grids around the world. If loss of power isn’t enough, the flares could also damage communication and GPS satellites. This can prove chaotic for airplanes, vessels and other vehicles depending on GPS technology. Animals depending on the Earth’s magnetic field to travel are also disrupted, and stand a good chance of losing their way. We have seen similar effects with whales getting lost, and ending up stranded on beaches all over the world. A solar flare can affect a greater number of these poor animals.
The worst case is that we may be left without electricity, without communication and without navigation. This is beginning to sound like a doomsday scenario. The good news is that so far the Earth has been spared. According to an article in the National Geographic, this was because the solar storm has been travelling in the same direction as our magnetic field when it hit, causing less of an impact than expected. The bad news is that we can expect these solar flares to continue way into 2013. If one of them hits the Earth with an opposing direction to that of the magnetic field, the effects may be a lot worse.Continued on the next page