Our world today would not manage to survive without technology, whether it is as basic as electricity or as advanced as the Internet. Businesses all across the world use these to get work done on a regular basis. So can solar storms really knock all of these out?
What if our entire globe went dark, with no power, Internet, or any other form of digital connectivity? It sounds like a terrifying dystopian future that no one wants to live in, but the worst part is that it may happen at any time. You might wonder what could cause this? It is solar storms.
What are solar storms?
Solar storms occur when the Sun’s activity is at its peak. Solar flares and winds spew out boiling hot plasma from the Sun that involves massive bursts of charged particles launched into space from the Sun’s atmosphere.
These solar activities have an impact on Earth’s magnetosphere, which generates brilliant auroras in areas where they aren’t ordinarily observed. These massive bursts of charged particles could also produce catastrophic electronic interference, rendering electronic devices inoperable.
Why do solar storms happen?
According to NASA, the Sun, like Earth, is involved in a variety of activities. However, because it is the star of our solar system, its actions have a significant impact on all of the planets, including Earth. Solar storms are caused by solar activity on the surface of the Sun.
These solar activities can take on many forms: coronal mass ejections, which are large clouds of plasma and magnetic fields that erupt from the Sun; solar flares, which are intense bursts of radiation caused by the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots; or high-speed solar wind streams produced by coronal holes on the Sun.
What harm can solar storms create?
When charged particles from the Sun interact with Earth’s magnetosphere, they can destroy the electronics on our planet owing to the tremendous bombardment of charged particles. Solar storms frequently cause interruptions in power and communications.
For this reason, solar storms might destroy electricity grids, posing severe social and economic implications for our world. Due to a shortage of power, hospitals will be unable to care for the sick, businesses will be unable to operate, culminating in an economic collapse, and humanity would lose all forms of digital communication.
Furthermore, solar storms send forth light waves over the entire spectrum. This includes invisible light, such as X-rays and gamma rays, as well as radiation. Humans are vulnerable to this radiation. Fortunately, the majority of these high-energy rays are absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere.
Because we are sheltered by our atmosphere, solar storms pose no substantial threat to mankind on Earth. That’s not to say that everyone is safe after a solar storm. On the other hand, astronauts in space do not have the same luck. Humans in space or at high altitudes, such as on a plane, could be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.
Charged particles traveling from the Sun to Earth are more likely to absorb damaging radiation. This will cause both short-term and long-term effects on human health. Short-term injury from skin irritation is possible and one of the long-term consequences could be an increased risk of skin cancer. Any injured human, nonetheless, will most likely recover from the exposure.
How can the Earth be protected from solar storms?
Solar storms, according to experts, could potentially disrupt Internet access, bringing us all offline. As a result, it’s critical that we stay prepared for solar storms.
Researchers have sent probes to our solar system’s star to investigate its irregularities and determine a pattern of solar storms so that when the charged particles do approach Earth, the electrical grids may be shut down to avoid them from being overwhelmed and destroyed.
Hence, the best way to protect against solar storms is to detect or forecast them in advance and shut down the grids before they occur.