Solar flares were not really considered a very high-potensial risk until some wise guys started asking questions and making heads spin. What would happen in a worst-case scenario? Is it time to pack our bags and travel to Mars? Or is all this solar flares stuff really overrated?
Let’s dig in. So what are solar flares exactly?
Once in a while the sun spits out these huge solar flares. They are explosions of magnetic energy stored in the suns atmosphere (called the Corona) that sometimes is released out into space. They are extremely violent and tremendously big, and the energy released is the same as 100-billion (!) atomic bombs detonating at the same time!
Luckily the sun is so far away, so we’re safe… right?
Well… if a solar flare exploded in the direction of your home you might see a different tomorrow. But not in the way you might think. Don’t get me wrong, solar flares will kill you, no doubt about it. The radiation would make you scream like a pigeon and run like a monkey. But we are so fortunate to be guarded by our own planet.
Earths magnetic field acts just as a shield against these solar outbursts, and redirect the flares and the raditation around the Earth instead of directly at us. So the solar flares are not directly dangerous to us as human beings, but it would still change our world.
A solar storm could potensially wipe out our electrical grind, and you know what that means. No more Facebook for you, buddy! No more cooking with the oven and don’t even think about flushing the toilet. Yes, indeed. Without power your local pumping station would not be able to provide you with water, and without water, no flushing.
Without electricity we are pretty much helpless, because electricity plays such an important part in, quite frankly, every aspect of our modern life. From watching tv, to filling gas on your car. You might wake up tomorrow and literally find yourself living in the stone age. In the worst case-scenario we face living in the stone age for a few months, or to up to a year before we’ve been able to repair the damage.
Luckily for us (again) we can spot these solar flares before they reach Earth. We can’t predict when they will happen, but when they happen we’ll know. It will take everywhere from a few hours to a day or two, depending on the speed of the flares, before it will get here. That gives us enough time to turn off the whole power grid before the storm arrives, and then turn them on again when it’s safe.
Did you know? There is in fact a positive side to these solar storms. When they hit the Earths magnetic field they create a magnificent lightshow, also know as the aurora borealis or northern light.