Solar flares 2021: How dangerous are they vis a vis solar storms for planet Earth?

Solar flares 2021: The Sun has been inactive for the last 30 years, but it is getting quite active and that is likely dangerous because it will generate more solar flares and solar storms. While solar storms are quite dangerous, are solar flares in the same league? Find out what Indian scientist revealed in a paper. 

| Updated on: Aug 21 2022, 20:18 IST
Solar Flares vs Solar Storms
Solar flares 2021: How bad are solar flares for infrastructure on earth? As bad as solar storms? Find out. (Pixabay)
Solar Flares vs Solar Storms
Solar flares 2021: How bad are solar flares for infrastructure on earth? As bad as solar storms? Find out. (Pixabay)

Solar flares 2021: The Sun is the epicentre of all life on Earth. It is the constant source of energy that makes possible for humanity and other flora and fauna to exist. However, even though it may be a life giver, the Sun also has its dangerous elements. The Sun is the source of what is known as solar flares, which are emitted frequently and if they head directly for Earth, there will be consequences, at a certain level, but not everywhere. Yes, there are some parts that will not be impacted by a solar flare, when and if, it comes jetting this way from the Sun. Solar flares happen according to a pattern over a certain period of time. "Solar activity waxes and wanes in cycles, with a period length of approximately 11 years," says Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi University of California, Irvine and VMware Research in her research paper.

While solar storms can definitely impact electronic infrastructure on Earth and sky, solar flares have limited destructive potential. That does not imply they are not powerful. "Solar flares involve large amounts of emitted energy as electromagnetic radiation. Although flares can reach earth in 8 minutes, they affect only the upper layers of the atmosphere, particularly the ionosphere, causing disruptions to satellite communication and GPS," Jyothi added in her research paper.

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But what about the impact on Earth? Most scientists are of the view that solar storms can destroy infrastructure, both internet and electricity, on Earth. However, that is not the case with solar flares. "Solar flares do not pose any threat to terrestrial communication or other infrastructure," said Jyothi.

While that is comforting, it is still a problem. Solar flares can affect satellites and GPS and those people who are increasingly connected to the Internet via satellites, have some reason to worry.

Another reason to be added is that the Sun has been in a relatively benign stage of activity for quite some time, but it is getting to that period in its cycle when it is increasingly getting more active and that means it will generate more solar flares. "The sun was in a period of low activity in the past three decades from which it is slowly emerging," said the Indian scientist in her paper. Significantly, it is in these 3 decades that humanity has made the biggest jump in technological progress and yes, Internet and electricity infrastructure.

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First Published Date: 08 Sep, 07:22 IST