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3/25/13

Solar Flares and Science Fiction



A long-lasting solar flare erupted from our sun early February 9, triggering an intense CME eruption aimed squarely at Earth. The solar storm didn't endanger  satellites or astronauts in space, but amplified auroras on Earth, NASA said. The solar eruption occurred during a minor, but long-duration, flare. It hurled a wave of charged particles at Earth at speeds of about 1.8 million miles per hour...

Are we truly safe?


Recently I've resumed work on a SFR featuring a fascinating premise: Could a solar flare or CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) be big enough or dangerously strong enough to cause a planet wide cataclysm? Set in a different solar system where humanoid life exists, the beings in my story are on the cusp of discovering light speed space travel. Something is happening to their sun. Extreme CME activity is increasing way too rapidly and too often.

Coronal mass ejections are eruptions of charged solar material that fling solar particles out into space. Aimed at a near planet, they can cause geomagnetic storms when they interact with the planet's magnetic field. Solar flares produce high energy particles and radiation that are dangerous to living organisms.

Earth has a strong protective magnetic field. But what if the beings in my story were no longer protected by their planet's magnetic field? Or an unknown anomaly causes their sun to go haywire and set off a CME extinction level event? Planet wide cataclysm. How could they save their world? Maybe, just maybe help could come from an unexpected source... 

The most serious effects on human activity happen during major geomagnetic storms. These storms, induced by CME's, usually are associated with flares, but sometimes no flares are observed when they occur. By the time the dangerous flares are discovered by the beings in my story, it may be too late.

The next maximum phase for our own sun is expected to occur this year, 2013. So are we safe from a true disaster? At the surface of the Earth are we are well protected from the effects of solar flares and other solar activity by the Earth's strong magnetic field.  

Lucky for us, our recent CME activity only amplified the northern and southern lights display over the Earth's poles causing beautiful views like this. 


Yet is Earth truly safe from serious solar activity and disaster caused by solar flares in the future? CME's can knock out our communication and satellite grids. But our atmosphere, so our scientists tell us, is intact and our world is safe. 

What are your thoughts?

Kaye

2 comments:

Melisse Aires said...

Sounds like an interesting book premise! During the build up to 2012 I read a lot of speculation about solar events, all manner of cataclysmic events. One could happen here but I think some of the human race would survive. I think we have that cockroach quality for survival as a species.

Kaye Manro said...

Mel,
Well we have all heard the cockroach will survive. I believe humans will also prevail some how some way. We are a cockroachy bunch when it comes to survival!

(btw - wonder how the roach got its name? cock roach... funny.)

Anybody researched it?