Scientists, once again, are warning that a solar superflare could drastically alter life on Earth as we know it today. Humans have now come to a point where we are dependent on electronics for communication, banking, transportation, sanitation, and virtually every part of our daily lives. Scientistis are warning that a solar superflare has the potential to impact the electronic systems on Earth with the force of one billion megaton nuclear bombs. An impact of this size would wipe out Earth’s communication and energy systems, sending civilization into chaos. Scientists are making this claim after studying superflares on other stars that are similar in size and age of our Sun.
The Earth is not immune to solar storms. Once in a while, flares and other solar activity have caused problems with electronic devices here on Earth. For the most part, the electronic systems impacted have been able to be brought back online without any major problems. The magnetic field that protects the Earth is what protects us from these run of the mill solar storms, but it is not impenetrable. A superflare directed at the Earth could shred Earth’s first line of solar defense. Chloe Pugh, lead scientist from the University of Warwick, commented on a solar superflare hitting the Earth.
“If the Sun were to produce a superflare it would be disastrous for life on Earth; our GPS and radio communication systems could be severely disrupted and there could be large-scale power blackouts as a result of strong electrical currents being induced in power grids. Fortunately the conditions needed for a superflare are extremely unlikely to occur on the Sun, based on previous observations of solar activity.”
The star that Pugh’s team was studying is known as KIC9655129. The team analyzed data from the Kepler space telescope and saw that star KIC9655129 was similar in properties to solar flares produced by out Sun. C0-author of the University of Warwick superflare study, Anne-Marie Broomhall, commented on the data her team analyzed.
“This result…is an indication that the same physical processes are involved in both solar flares and stellar superflares. The latter finding supports the hypotesis that the Sun is able to produce a potentially devestating superflare.”
One of the most powerful solar storms in history occurred in 1859. Known as the Carrington event, a solar superflare that has been determined to have been as strong as 10 billion nuclear bombs wreaked havoc on the North America telegraph system. Astronomer Richard Carrington noted that when he looked up at the sun he saw “two patches of intensely bright and white light.” The aurora that was generated from this solar superflare made people believe that the sun was out at night. The solar superstorm lasted from August 28 to September 1. One witness to the solar storm commented about what the sky looked like from Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina.
“The eastern sky appeared of a blood red color. It seemed brightest exactly in the east, as though the full moon, or rather the sun, were about to rise. It extended almost to the zenith. The whole island was illuminated. The sea reflected the phenomenon, and no one could look at it without thinking of the passage in the Bible which says, ‘the sea was turned to blood.’ The shells on the beach, reflecting light, resembled coals of fire.”
An article published in the journal Science, in August 2015, discussed that a solar superflare the size and strength of the Carrington event can be expected to hit Earth every 250 to 480 years. In 2012, our Sun sent out a superflare comparable to the one in 1859. Luckily, Earth was not in its path.
Do you think a solar superflare will hit us before we do anything to protect our electronic systems from it?
[Image via AP Photo/NASA]