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Transcript of Solar Flares
What are solar flares?
A solar flare is a sudden, rapid and intense variation in brightness seen on the sun when magnetic energy has built up in the solar atmosphere and is released (a solar thunderstorm). Just to get an idea, the energy released is equal to 10 million hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time.
Has the Earth been hit by a solar flare before?
Will the Earth suffer from solar flares in the future?
Scientists have predicted that in Cycle 24 (current sunspot cycle name) the Sunspot number will reach its maximum again in April 2014. As shown in the chart to the right, the years 2013-2014 is the sunspot number maximum. Adding 11 years to 2013, this brings up another phenomenon around 2024.
science1.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at.../06may_carringtonflare/ (cached page)
www.nasa.gov/vision/space/livinginspace/27jan_solarflares.html (cached page)
www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/stereo/news/stereo_astronauts.html/ (cached page)
www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/flare-impacts.html (cached page)
The Carrington Event
At 11:18 AM, September 1, 1859, 33 year old Richard Carrington observed a cluster of sunspots from a private obsevatory which he skillfully drew, as it was his daily routine. Yet, he then witnessed 2 white beads of light over the sunspots, taking a kidney shape form. Before dawn the next day, skies all over Earth showed red, green, and purple auroras that "newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight", Even tropical countries such as Cuna, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii witnessed such light show. Solar physics team leader at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama explained on May 6, 2008 that "What Carrington saw [back in 1859] was a white-light solar flare-- a magnetic explosion on the sun".Telegraph systems worldwide went haywire, and sparks set telegraph papers on fire. Although when telegraphers disconnected batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents allowed messages to go through.
The 1972 Incident
On August 1972, a solar flare knocked out long distance phone communication accross some states in the US, including Illinois. This event lead AT&T to come up with a new power system for transatlantic cables. Such flare is legendary at NASA because it happened after the crew of Apollo 16 returned to Earth in April and before the crew of Apollo 17 was launched to the moon in December. This solar flare is popularly known as the "seahorse" flare because of the seahorse shape astronomers saw at the Big Bear Solar Observatory in California.
The 1989 Incident
On March 13, 1989 the second largest storm experienced in earth in the past 50 years shut down the entire province of Quebec in Canada. This solar flare disrupted the electric power transmission from the hydro Quebec generating station in Canada, causing 6 million people to live in total darkness for 9 hours. According to NASA, "aurora-induced power surges even melted transformers in New Jersey"
What can YOU do to prevent it?
Are solar flares dangerous?
Because of Earth's atmosphere, we humans are safe from the solar flares, yet does not mean we are completely SAFE! Astronauts and satellite equipment in space are strongly affected because of their exposure in space. Also, these strong flares of energy interrupt communication and devices needing of satellites (such as GPS and other navigation/cellular devices). Its like if the earth turns into a huge Bermuda Triangle until the flares wear off. Not everything from solar flares is negative, though. We get an amazing aurora borealis show!
If the flares do not affect us much on the ground, why should we care?
Just like home owners along the coast need to take shelter from a hurricane, government departments and companies need to protect their equipment from such storms. Airline companies, NASA, NOAA, and other companies need to know when they hit to take the measures needed to stay safe. For instance, flights would be postponed, since planes wouldn't communicate with the control tower because of communication interruptions. Similarly, depending on the intensity of the flare, even power grids can be strongly affected.
Yes. The earth has been hit by solar flares before, in 1972 in the US, 1989 in Canada, and the 1859 "Carrington Event" in England. These three incidents are not the only incidents that have occurred, since scientists can find such energetic particles the solar flare leave behind when drilling and analyzing arctic ice. There has also been recorded observations and damages of many more solar flares with NASA and SWPC.
Because of our cellular technology dependency today, cellphones and devices related will also be affected, especially with long distance communication.
REMEMBER: THE STRONGER THE FLARE, THE STRONGER THE DAMAGE ON THE GROUND!!
To watch a video of the seahorse flare, click the link below:
Because the atmosphere protects us from much of the harm of solar flares, all we can really do is try to stay indoors. The atmosphere does NOT protect us from electromagnetic waves, and such waves can cause us to be dizzy or feel nauseous. Astronauts should be the most careful and protected, because of their bigger exposure to space and such flares. The International Space Station (ISS) has thick protection for astronauts, so astronauts receive about 1 rem. NASA states that to die, you need to suddenly absorb 300 rem (short for Roentgen Equivalent man, the radiation dose that causes the same injury to human tissue as 1 roentgen of x-rays, equivalent to a CAT scan diagnostic)
AND SECONDLY..... ENJOY THE AURORA BOREALIS LIGHTS!!!
October 13, 2013