Is the Earth Ready for Bigger Sun Solar Storms?
What are Sun Storms ?
Last January 27, 2010 NASA STEREO Spacecraft captured a more active sun which can mean bigger solar storms in the future. "The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity," said Richard Fisher, head of NASA's Heliophysics Division.
A sun storm is a short and sudden event: It builds up as magnetic fields in the corona of the sun form beautiful plasma arcs, and happen when the magnetic fields "reconnect": The magnetic field lines of two separate magnetic fields join and release a lot of energy, which catapults the hot plasma into space. But the solar storm triggers a geomagnetic storm in the magnetic field of Earth, that affects power lines and pipelines, and can last for a few hours.
According to NASA report, a small coronal mass ejection (a stream of charged particles from the Sun) shoots out and into space at about a million miles per hour, carrying some magnetic field with it. The top image shows the beginning of the coronal mass ejection, while the lower image shows the solar matter leaving the Sun’s corona
The Solar corona
The Coronal Mass Ejection (CME)
Image via NASA Earth Observatory
Recent occurences was related to Sept. 2, 1859 incident, an incredible storm of charged particles sent by the sun slammed into Earth's atmosphere, overpowered it, and caused havoc on the ground. Telegraph wires, the high-tech stuff of the time, suddenly shorted out in the United States and Europe, igniting widespread fires. Colorful aurora, were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii.
"What they generated was the perfect space storm," says Bruce Tsurutani, a plasma physicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A day before it happened an extraordinary solar flare was witnessed by British astronomer Richard Carrington.
The Effects of Sun Storms to Earth?
A coronal mass ejection can cause problems on Earth. The energetic particles can damage the following :
Communications (mobile phones ) and web (Internet) backend operations rely on electronic information system. Can you imagine what will happen if these can be hampered by sun storms. With the electrical and electronic power dependency of humans for its daily life, it will become vulnerable to the threats of the Earth .
Affects the travel industry, communications and navigation problems in airplanes.
Disrupt industrial and household electrical supply. A blackout is possible to occur for this incident.
Water and Sewerage. Most of the pumps used for sewerage are powered by electricity.
Technological and electronic power supply. Cable and television networks mostly rely on satellites.
Total loss can cost to 2$ Trillion worth of damage.
Is the Earth ready for bigger Sun Solar Storms?
The ability of predicting these storms and knowing what humanity can do will lessen the effects and the damage of it. To understand the sun and its effects on Earth, NASA continues to conduct missions including Spacecrafts STERO and Solar Dynamic Observatory. The two are positioned to view of 90 percent of the solar surface.
STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) was launched last October 2006 to provide revolutionary view of the Sun-Earth System. They will capture 3D structure of coronal mass ejections and violent eruptions from the sun. It will mostly helps in space weather detection for the coming of the Earth-directed solar ejections.
The Solar Dynamics Observatory is a more advanced solar spacecraft launched on February 11, 2010 to observe the sun and study the causes of solar variability and its impacts on Earth. It will take a daily detailed images of the Sun by every 0.75 seconds and will send 1.5 terabytes of data back to Earth (the equivalent of 380 full-length movies). It will help scientists understand more of Sun’s magnetic field and how it is released into space as solar wind, energetic particles, and variations in solar irradiance.
Last June 8, 2010, top scientists conducted the The Space Weather Enterprise Forum at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C to discuss the ways how the Earth will be ready for these occurrences to protect the Earth’s satellites.
The Future of the Earth
With the emerging unpredictable occurrences on Earth, space experts continue to enhance space technology for a more accurate forecast solar storms and provide space weather reports.
Life goes on but the reality of something bigger coming is undeniable to humanity. We can only make personal preparations for whatever it takes.
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