The possibility of the Sun causing catastrophic damage on Earth might seem something out of a science-fiction film, but this threat is very true. One of the best examples of Solar activity harming Earth was provided by the Roland Emmerich film 2012. It depicted the apocalypse prophesied by the Mayans many centuries ago. The storyline of the movie revolved around the Sun emitting unstable neutrinos because of anomalous energy processes, which were causing the Earth’s core to heat up and eventually lead to its destruction.
Although the ‘science’ part of the film was a bit over the top, the threat posed by the Sun could cause significant damage on Earth, and a recent solar flare impact gave us a hint of the Sun’s mighty power.
Solar flare impact
According to a report by spaceweather.com, a Reversed-polarity sunspot, given the designation AR3296, exploded on the Sun, blasting out dangerous solar flares directly towards Earth yesterday, May 7. Forecasters at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) revealed that this explosion on the solar surface produced a M1.5-class solar flare which lasted for a substantial amount of time.
As soon as this solar flare struck Earth, it caused a shortwave radio blackout over Western USA and the Pacific Ocean, making it harder for Ham Radio operators and Mariners to stay in contact.
Reason behind the blackout
The report further revealed that the shortwave radio blackout occurred due to extreme ultraviolet radiation from the flare which ionized the top of Earth’s atmosphere. When charged solar particles hit Earth, the radio communications and the power grid are affected when it hits the planet’s magnetic field. It can cause power and radio blackouts for several hours or even days. However, electricity grid problems occur only if the solar flare is extremely large.
Technology involved in solar observation
The NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) carries a full suite of instruments to observe the Sun and has been doing so since 2010. It uses three very crucial instruments to collect data from various solar activities.
They include Helio seismic and Magnetic Imager (HMI) which takes high-resolution measurements of the longitudinal and vector magnetic field over the entire visible solar disk, Extreme Ultraviolet Variability Experiment (EVE) which measures the Sun’s extreme ultraviolet irradiance and Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) which provides continuous full-disk observations of the solar chromosphere and corona in seven extreme ultraviolet (EUV) channels.
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