While the danger posed by major solar storms to our civilization’s power grids is well documented (such as Whitley’s must-read 2012 ebook on the subject, Solar Flares), the potential effects of such storms on another network vital to the functioning of our society—the internet—is not as well understood. A new study
The sun’s solar flare activity appears to be hotting up: a massive X-Class solar flare erupted early on Sunday (Oct. 19) from a huge sunspot, and astronomers fear that this could just be the beginning of a spate of sizeable flares.
Solar flares are explosions of energetic radiation that can have potentially devastating effects on our communication systems, causing radio blackouts and affecting satellite measurements. Flares are categorised into three types, with grade C being the least powerful, grade M a medium-level flare, and grade X being the most powerful of all. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft captured images of the latest huge flare which was classified as a formidable X1.1.
The world’s media has been awash recently with news of a cosmic near-miss a couple of years ago that could have spelled disaster for planet Earth.
Physicists have released details of a solar storm that occurred on July 23rd, 2012, along with the disturbing fact that, had the storm occurred just one week earlier, Earth would have been directly in the line of fire.
“I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado said in a NASA Science online release. “If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire.”
On Tuesday, the sun’s first major solar flare of the year emerged from a massive sunspot on the surface of our favourite star, known as AR1944 and described by NASA as "one of the largest sunspots seen in the last 10 years."