3/7/12

Solar Flares and Science Fiction

It is a belief among fans that reality follows ideas brought forth in Science Fiction. Judging from our Sun's latest solar flare activity this would certainly ring true. 




Researching our Sun’s Solar Flares

It’s interesting to note just how much is going on in the scientific community concerning solar flare activity. It’s true the increased activity from Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) could possibly pose a threat to Earth and what is happening now is not science fiction. 

The sun unleashed a cosmic double whammy Tuesday (March 6), erupting with two major flares to cap a busy day of powerful solar storms. One of the flares is the most powerful solar eruption of the year, so far.

Both of the huge flares ranked as X-class storms, the strongest type of solar flares the sun can have. They followed several weaker, but still powerful, sun storms on Tuesday and came just days after another major solar flare.

The first big solar storm ranked as an X5.4-class flare and the second event occurred just over an hour later, reaching a maximum strength of X1.3. The sun-watching observatories spotted huge clouds of charged particles — called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs — erupting from the solar flares.

When aimed directly at Earth, X-class solar flares can endanger astronauts and satellites in orbit, interfere with satellite communications and damage power grids on Earth. Charged particles from the solar storms interact with Earth's upper atmosphere, resulting in a glow that is typically visible to observers at high northern or southern latitudes.  

Astronomers rank solar flares by strength using five categories: A, B, C, M and X. The A-class flares are the weakest sun storms, while the X-class events are the most powerful solar flares.

 This image from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sun as it unleashed an X5.4-class solar flare.

The image of the powerful Class X2 solar flare of Feb. 14, 2011, shows how it appeared to both the Solar Dynamics Observatory in extreme ultraviolet light and the SOHO's C2 coronagraph. This was the largest flare in more than four years.



Though I love following the research and wonder where this massive solar activity will lead, for a writer doing research on stories that have that disaster feel, the sun’s overactive solar flare activity can add a lot of fodder to the ‘what if’ imagination.     

What if…

A small orbiting science station whose main goal is to search the deep arenas of space for spatial anomalies and even alien life is suddenly faced with solar mass ejections (CME) of epic proportions directly from their own sun. This puts their little space station as well as their planet in extreme and disastrous danger, even to the point of an extinction level event.

That’s an interesting premise, but what if there is nothing these beings can do to save their world given their present stage of development? How about adding an alien intervention? Now we’ve got a SF, and yes, R story. (Science Fiction Romance)

What are your thoughts on sun's recent CME activity? 

Kaye

Related Post : Catastrophe Looming 
For more information and stunning views of our sun's solar flare activity, visit space.com

10 comments:

Amber Skyze said...

Very interesting. I'm always learning so much when I drop by! :)

Helen Hardt said...

Amazing photos!

Natalie said...

Yep, solar flares are scary. Great fodder for fiction because of the plausibility factor. I like your story idea BTW.

Shelley Munro said...

Wow, those photos are amazing. The color is so vibrant. Our weather has been really crappy lately. You could do all sorts of things with solar flares in fiction. I wonder...

Melisse Aires said...

Ooo, extinction level event, disaster SFR, alien intervention--certainly some plot bunnies running with that. BUT I will Ignore! Ignore!

Kaye Manro said...

Amber - I'm so glad there is actual content here that is informative!

Helen - Those are some great photos for sure.

Natalie - You are so right. The plausibility factor make for good story ideas.

Shelley - sorry for the crappy weather. Yeah, I think there are lots of story ideas floating around that could include the solar flares.

Melesse - lol-- you know we would all come up with different stories even if we took the same idea to heart and wrote about it.

menina.iscrazy said...

This solar flare isn't as bad as they thought it might be. We get about 100 of these in every 11 year cycle. :)

I am a science geek what can I say? LOL

There are some really bad movies on flares and some really good books. ;) The books are really hard scifi though.

Kaye Manro said...

Menina - Thanks for the update-- it's always good to know what is going on! I agree, there are some bad movies out on CME activity and a few good SF books too.

Melisse Aires said...

Kaye, I think it would be a blast to have a set of writing conditions thrown at a group of SFR writers just to see what happens!

The Solar flares may make the Aurora Borealis visible here in central Wyoming. Have seen it in my home state of Montana(rare, though). Look forward to that!

Allie Ritch said...

It's the classic man-vs.-nature conflict taken to a universal scale.