John Mace Grunsfeld, American physicist and former NASA astronaut from Discovery special The Dark Side of the Sun

Discovery’s ‘The Dark Side Of The Sun’ Film Narrated By Sting [Spoilers]

There are times, especially during a severe thunderstorm, when the power goes out temporarily. A minor inconvenience for most people, since they know that their power will be quickly restored. Even during major events like ice storms, where the power can be disrupted for days or even weeks, the lights will eventually come back on. If the power went out and didn’t return for a year or more, it’s a good bet that panic would set in once people realized something more ominous was happening, other than a temporary power outage. It sounds like a good scenario for a doomsday movie, but this event could actually occur.

Looking like a crooked frown, SDO captured this image of a solar filament stretching across the
lower half of the sun on Feb. 10, 2015. . Learn more about the sun on #DarkSideOfTheSun, airing on Saturday at 9p as part of @sciencechannel weekend. . . #science #sun #astronomy #star #celestialobject

A photo posted by Discovery (@discoverychannel) on

The Dark Side of the Sun is an informative and eye-opening film that tells the story of the sun, from its importance to all life on Earth, to the potentially devastating impact it could have on civilization. The sun is crucial for all life on the planet, but Broadway World shared that the sun is constantly releasing huge masses of energy known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs. One big enough to knock out the electrical power grid could easily leave the entire planet without power for at least a year or longer.

The largest coronal mass ejection that hit the Earth happened over 150 years ago, and is known as the Carrington Event. This CME was responsible for taking down sections of the newly created U.S. telegraph network, starting fires, and even shocking some unsuspecting telegraph operators. The Northern Lights or “Aurora Borealis” were so bright that people were able to read a newspaper at night. Fortunately, society wasn’t yet so heavily dependent on electricity, but in today’s world the impact would be far-reaching and incredibly devastating. If a similar storm hit today, it could very well take out power grids, knock out satellites, GPS, and other communications systems.

Almost everything and everyone is now connected in some way through electricity via the power grid, and to electronics in general in this era of hyper-connected telecommunications. Electricity is so much a part of life that almost all business is now conducted through the use of electronics, and homes around the world couldn’t function without electricity. Any major disruptions could set modern society back by hundreds of years, cause trillions of dollars in damage, and it would take several years to recover from the resulting chaos and confusion.

According to Worldscreen, The Dark Side of the Sun features scientists and engineers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) as they work to address the problem. The film offers viewers unprecedented access to two cutting-edge projects that could potentially help predict major coronal mass ejections so that preventive measures can be taken before the electrical grid is severely damaged or destroyed.

“Today, we get only 48 minutes warning if a major and potentially devastating coronal mass ejection from our Sun will hit the Earth. Solar Probe Plus and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope are designed to give us deeper insight into the darker side of our Sun, so in future we will be able to predict when such dangerous events actually leave the solar surface,” said Matt Mountain, president of AURA. “This will give us 48 hours to protect our communications and GPS satellites, power grids and the internet from such a potentially devastating ‘Carrington type’ event. These two missions are a crucial next step towards keeping us safe from the Dark Side of the Sun.”

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is leading the construction of the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), which will be the world’s largest solar telescope when completed sometime next year, and will provide detailed views of the sun. NASA’s Solar Probe Plus is the first ever spacecraft that will be able to fly to the sun in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the corona, which is the hazy cloud surrounding the sun. This project is also currently under construction, but once both projects are completed they have the potential to unlock the secrets of the sun so it never becomes a deadly threat to modern societies around the planet.

Will you be checking out this fascinating special? Leave your comments, thoughts, and opinions below. The Dark Side of the Sun headlines the Science Channel Weekend, and for more science-themed programming, Discovery will air last year’s Telescope, Mythbusters, Mythbusters: The Search, and What on Earth?

The Dark Side of the Sun premieres on Saturday, February 11 at 10 p.m. ET on the Discovery Channel. The Science Channel will broadcast the film the following evening at 9 p.m. ET.

[Featured Image by Discovery]

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