An Earth-Killer Solar Storm? Horrific destruction our Sun can wreak on humanity

    If a strong enough solar storm heads for Earth, could it destroy all life on the planet and cause total annihilation? Read on to find out.

    By: SHAURYA TOMER
    | Updated on: Aug 25 2022, 20:45 IST
    WARNING! Solar Storm to hit Earth soon
    According to Spaceweather.com’s report, the new sunspot is so huge that it is even changing the way the sun vibrates. The Space Weather Prediction Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that the geomagnetic field around Earth would be unsettled over the weekend which could disrupt the radio-magnetic sphere.
    1/5 According to Spaceweather.com’s report, the new sunspot is so huge that it is even changing the way the sun vibrates. The Space Weather Prediction Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted that the geomagnetic field around Earth would be unsettled over the weekend which could disrupt the radio-magnetic sphere. (nasa.gov)
    Solar flare
    2/5 Spaceweather.com said, “A high speed stream of solar wind is approaching Earth. Estimated time of arrival: Aug. 9th. The gaseous material is flowing from an equatorial hole in the sun's atmosphere. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.” (SDO/NASA)
    Coronal Mass Ejection or CME
    3/5 Solar storms occur due to a coronal mass ejection (CME) that is set off on the surface of the Sun. As per the K-index, which measures the magnetic field around the Earth, solar storms are divided into 5 classes from G-1 to G-5. The G-1 is the lowest impact solar G5 is given to the most severe solar storms. (Pixabay)
    Solar flare
    4/5 According to NASA, Sunspots are dark areas on the solar surface which contain strong magnetic fields that are constantly shifting and can form and dissipate over periods of days or weeks. They occur when strong magnetic fields emerge through the solar surface and allow the area to cool slightly. (Pixabay)
    Aurora or Northern lights
    5/5 When solar flares hit Earth, they interact with the Earth’s electromagnetic field to cause a Geomagnetic storm. It may cause blackouts, GPS problems. However, if the solar storm is big enough, it can wreak havoc on all the earth's technological infrastructure. It is also the reason behind the stunning night-sky phenomenon that we know as Auroras or Northern Lights. (Pixabay)
    solar storm
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    Solar Storms occur due to Coronal Mass Ejections from the surface of the Sun, sending solar flares towards Earth. (NASA)

    Solar Storms have been battering Earth for billions of years. The same is continuing and with the Sun at its volatile best during its latest 11-year solar cycle, it is spewing fire at Earth. These solar storms also cause major after-effects which can destroy the power and communications infrastructure on Earth. However, could such a strong solar storm ever hit Earth that it annihilates all life on the planet? Or could Earth fight back and survive? In a battle between solar storms vs Earth, who wins?

    What is a Solar Storm

    Solar storms occur due to a coronal mass ejection (CME) that is set off on the surface of the Sun. This ejection sends solar flares hurtling towards Earth. As per the K-index, which measures the magnetic field around the Earth, solar storms are divided into 5 classes from G-1 to G-5. The G-1 is the lowest impact solar G5 is given to the most severe solar storms.

    Impact of a Solar Storm

    The high-speed solar flares interact with the Earth's electromagnetic field and spark Geomagnetic storms. According to NASA, a geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere which occurs when there is a strong exchange of energy from the solar wind in the space above Earth.

    One of the major effects of solar storms is Radio blackouts. When a solar flare hits the Earth, the radio communications and the power grids are affected when it hits the Earth's magnetic field.

    Solar Storms can also cause a change in migration patterns of birds, whales and even bees. Since birds rely on magnetic fields of the Earth for navigation, their migration pattern gets affected.

    Although solar storms can cause various effects which have the potential to harm the planet, they also result in one of the most beautiful phenomena - Northern Lights. Northern Lights, also known as Auroras, bring about shifting curtains of light in greens, blues and pinks in the night sky.

    Could a Solar Storm end all life on Earth?

    According to scientists, Earth has two very distinct advantages – the magnetic field and atmosphere. The magnetic field interacts with the solar flares to stop solar flares while Earth's atmosphere acts as a insulator and absorbs most of the solar particles, according to Live Science.

    Alex Young, Associate Director for Science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland said in a video way back in 2012, “We live on a planet with a very thick atmosphere… that stops all of the harmful radiation that is produced in a solar flare.”

    “Even in the largest events that we've seen in the past 10,000 years, we see that the effect is not enough to damage the atmosphere such that we are no longer protected,” he further added.

    So, it seems that you need not worry about searching for another planet to live on any time soon, and your time on this planet won't be cut short at least by a solar storm.

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    First Published Date: 25 Aug, 20:45 IST
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