As you may or may not be aware, our sun is ramping up its solar activity right about now. The sun’s antics ebb and flow over an 11 year cycle, and the most recent peak is going to be sometime around 2013. What this means for those of us residing on planet Earth is an increase in solar flare and coronal mass ejection (CME) activity.
Solar flares and CMEs are both a large energy release of radiation and burning gasses exploding from the surface of the sun, enveloping the earth as they pass by. As the earth swims in the Sun’s ejected radiation, solar particles are caught up in Earth’s magnetic field and the gas is excited, causing bursts of light that are commonly known as the Northern Lights. These lights aren’t just cool waves of multicolored light in the sky, though; the same solar effect can cause magnetic storms that can damage electronics and knock out GPS and cell signals.
A common concern here in the US is a large CME washing the Earth with enough solar radiation to cause a magnetic storm that puts the United States power grid offline. Efforts have neen under way to shore up the infrastructure, especially with the Sun ramping up it’s activity.
The Earth will be riding through multiple CMEs between December 28 and 31, as noted by the Daily Mail, and minor radio blackouts are expected, including disruptions to devices like GPS units, radios, and mobile phones.
The magnetic storms over the next few days won’t be powerful enough to damage electronics except in the most unlikely of cases, but you should go about your business with the expectation that you may have trouble with the above-stated systems until the end of the year. Soloar activity like this will become more and more common as we head into the Sun’s active cycle, though many ejections and flares will more than likely miss us (we hope!).
Larger flares and CMEs tend to push the Northern Lights further south, allowing them to be viewed by a much larger audience, which is a blessing in disguise of these ejections.
How do you feel about this phenomenon? Does it terrify you as much as it does me? I don’t think there’s enough of whatever I need to protect myself from the Sun’s angry ejections sitting between me and it. Am I being paranoid?
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