Solar Storms: What are they and how do they affect the planet?


What are Solar Storms? Can they really harm us? Know more about this dangerous phenomenon which originates from the Sun.

Earth has been bombarded with solar particles in the last few weeks originating from solar storms. But what is this phenomenon that originates from the Sun and travels all the way to Earth? According to NASA, 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. This is a huge amount of energy that slams into the Earth’s atmosphere and has the power to snap electrical grids, cause satellites to cease functioning and even spark Internet and phone outages. 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 storm and G5 rating is given to the most severe solar storms.

But did you know Solar Storms could have been key to life on Earth? Yes, you read that right. A research published in the Nature Geoscience on May 23, 2016 by a team of NASA scientists has revealed that solar storms might have provided the energy needed to turn simple molecules into the complex molecules such as RNA and DNA that were necessary for life.

Effects of Solar Storm

The high-speed solar flares spewed out by a solar storm interact with the Earth’s electromagnetic field and cause the formation of 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.

When a solar flare hits the Earth, the radio communications and the power grid is affected when it hits the Earth’s magnetic field. It can cause power and radio blackouts for several hours or even days. However, electricity grid and internet problems occur only if the solar flare is extremely powerful.

On the other hand, solar storms also cause an extremely beautiful phenomenon known as Auroras or Northern Lights, which attract astronomers, sky watchers as well as others with stunning streaks of colour across the night sky.

According to NASA scientists, Earth has two very distinct advantages – the magnetic field and atmosphere. The magnetic field interacts with the solar flares to stop them while Earth’s atmosphere acts as an insulator and absorbs most of the solar particles. 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.

Therefore, it seems like you don’t have to search for another planet to live on any time soon, and your time on Earth won’t be cut short, at least not by a solar storm.


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