Can a solar storm destroy the Earth?

Can a solar storm destroy the Earth?

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Life on Earth owes its existence to the sun’s radiant heat, but what happens when that radiation gets out of control, and tons of charged solar material suddenly rushes out at thousands of miles per second?

And what happens when the Earth is hit directly by the solar flare, and can a strong enough blow destroy life on our planet as we know it?

Scientists say most of the answers are complex but they agree on one thing: Earth’s magnetic field and insulating atmosphere keep us very well from even the most powerful solar flares, while solar storms can manipulate radar and radio systems or cut off satellites offline, radiation The most harmful spreads through the sky long before it comes into contact with human skin.

“We live on a planet with a very dense atmosphere… that stops all harmful radiation from a solar flare,” said Alex Young, associate director for science in the Division of Heliophysical Sciences at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

Addressing fears of a solar flare that would end the world in 2012, Young said in a 2011 video addressing fears of a solar flare.

While Earth’s magnetic field prevents widespread death from solar radiation, the sheer electromagnetic force of a torch can disrupt power grids, internet connections and other communication devices on Earth, leading to chaos and possibly death.

Space weather experts at NASA and other agencies are taking this threat seriously, and are closely monitoring the sun for potentially dangerous activity.

What are solar flares?

Solar flares occur when the sun’s magnetic field lines become tight and twisted, causing massive planet-sized storms of electromagnetic energy to form on the sun’s surface. According to experts, we can see these storms as cold, dark spots known as sunspots. The huge tendrils of magnetic field lines twist, roll, and sometimes explode, creating powerful flashes of energy, or solar flares.

Live Science previously reported that most of the energy from the solar flare radiates away as ultraviolet light and X-rays, however the intense energy of the flame can also heat nearby gas in the sun’s atmosphere, releasing massive clumps of charged particles known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). ) to space, if there is a sunspot blazing facing Earth, then any of the coronal mass ejections will explode directly toward us, usually arriving at our planet anywhere from 15 hours to several days.

According to NASA, most coronal mass ejections pass over our planet undetected by the general public, thanks to Earth’s strong magnetic field or magnetosphere, however the largest and most active CME can actually compress our planet’s magnetic field as it passes, resulting in what is known as Geomagnetic storm.

Scientists explain that when electromagnetic energy from the sun pours into our magnetosphere, the atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere become electrically charged, creating effects that can be seen around the world, during such storms the aurora borealis, which is usually seen only near the North Pole. , that turns downward until it becomes visible near the equator.

Some experts fear that a large enough CME could lead to an “online apocalypse” by overloading undersea internet cables and leaving parts of the world without access to the web for weeks or months, although this has yet to happen. Satellites and space stations, which orbit shielding the Earth’s atmosphere, can also be weakened by bounced radiation from coronal mass ejections.

According to studies, even the most powerful geomagnetic storm in recorded history, the Carrington event of 1859, had no noticeable impact on human health or other life on Earth. If the most powerful solar storms hit our planet before that, there is no evidence that they affected human health either.

“No matter what, flares don’t have much of an impact on us here on Earth,” Doug Bisker, a researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, told the Stanford Solar Center. I don’t know the answer to that, but it is clear that we have never observed a solar event large enough to have any measurable effects on human health.”

ionic threat

Scientists suspect that other nearby stars can do this. When some stars run out of fuel and die, they explode in a massive supernova that spews powerful radiation into space for millions of light years. These explosions are many times more powerful than solar flares if such an explosion occurred near Earth, a dying star can flood our planet with so much ultraviolet rays that strip our protective ozone layer, leaving Earth vulnerable to a barrage of charged particles between the stars.

The authors of a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in August 2020) believe that the death of a star within 65 light years of Earth may have done so about 359 million years ago, towards the end of the Devonian period (416 million to 358 million years ago). ), the mass extinction at the end of this period led to the death of 70% of the invertebrates on Earth, although scientists are not sure why, however examination of fossil spores from the time of the extinction revealed signs of UV damage, indicating that the explosion A star may have caused the extinction.

The authors of the research said that there are no candidate supernovae close enough to Earth to pose such a threat any time soon, we only have our warm little sun to worry about, and an atmosphere that ensures we stay on this star’s friendly side.

Source: Live Science

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