A Solar Flare Could be Headed Straight To Earth, Here’s How Much Danger Humanity Is In

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The sun, the very thing that shines bright in the sky, giving us energy as it warmly touches our skin, can be the very thing that ends our existence. The sun emits all sorts of space weather in random directions, and every once in a while Earth gets caught in the crossfire.

When it does, the consequences are very dangerous. If it happens again and we’re not prepared, it could lead to a multitrillion-dollar disaster among other tragedies. As it turns out , this danger is in emanate, but are we ready for it?

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The First Solar Flare

Our technology has only been able to detect and understand solar flares since the 1800s. It all started when solar astronomer Richard Carrington observed a sudden “white light flare” with unprecedented brightness in 1859.

solar flare expanded
NASA / Unsplash
NASA / Unsplash

it lasted about five minutes but 18 hours later, the largest magnetic storm in recorded history happened on Earth. It was visible worldwide, including at the equator. Everyone was confused, even miners woke up in the middle of the night, thinking it was dawn. It was so bright you could read a night. Fires started spreading and telegraphs were sparking by themselves even though they were disconnected.

This became known as the first ever observed solar flare, a space weather event that we don’t wish to re-occur because if it does, we’re in big trouble.

The Sun’s Hot Magenic Field

As we all know the sun is hot because of its magnetic field’s charged particles. This is very different than Earth’s magnetic field. The problem is that the particulars around the sun enter and exit the sun chaotically, with strong magnetic fields that loop, connect and split in all sorts of directions.

melting earth in galaxy
NASA / Unsplash
NASA / Unsplash

These particles are also moving quickly and can suddenly change direction with great strength. When they accelerate too fast they can emit solar flares.

Why This Is Dangerous For Humanity

Usually, solar flares are low energy and can take three days to make it the distance between the sun and Earth so it misses our planet. However, despite the low odds of striking Earth, there is a possibility and when it happens, the outcome is a disaster for the earth.

sun hiding earth with silhouette
Jongsun Lee / Unsplash
Jongsun Lee / Unsplash

It’s a matter of chance but all it takes is for everything lines up in precisely the wrong way which is really just a matter of time. It’s happened before and it will happen again. We don’t know exactly when but it could take us with it, so we need to be prepared.

We’re In Danger

The problem is that these movements are chaotic and have no direction. They’re just as likely to occur in the direction of Earth as they are in any other direction.

death sign
Mikael Seegen / Unsplash
Mikael Seegen / Unsplash

Most of the space weather events that occur in our solar system are not a big deal to us but in the event it comes directly for us, it creates a potential danger. Luckily with our improving technologies, we might have ways of predicting when solar flares head toward us.

It’s Coming Straight For Us

Thanks to modern technology, we now have sun-monitoring satellites and observatories that take up our first line of defense. Knowing is the first step. These technologies can alert us when a space weather event is potentially threatening to us.

solar flare opening up twards earth
Thomas Willmott / Unsplash
Thomas Willmott / Unsplash

That means that when flares are pointing directly at us we can start taking steps to prepare. But how much can we really do in the face of nature? It might be a losing battle unless we figure out how to fight the sun itself.

If These Three Things Happen We’re In Trouble

Basically, we’re safe from a complete disaster unless these three things happen all at once:

hand holding globe by the lake
Anne Nygård / Unsplash
Anne Nygård / Unsplash

First, we would have to experience a rare space weather event where the sun emits a flare that aligns directly with our planet and penetrates our own magnetic field.

Second, the particles would have to be moving rapidly.

Third, there needs to be a big amount of electrical infrastructure in place, particularly large-area loops and coils of wire. If the damage was already bad in 1859 when electricity was new, we can only imagine how bad the threat would be in today’s world that is entirely dependent on technology.

The Possible Aftermath

The sun causes a direct threat to earth not because it’s a threat to us, humans, but because it will ruin the infrastructure that we’re so heavily dependent on.

Monstera / Pexels
Monstera / Pexels

If this event does take place, it will cause a huge disruption to the electrical current flow and wires connecting our infrastructure. This can lead to electrical shorts, fires, explosions, blackouts and power outages a loss of communications infrastructure, and other damages. We would have no internet, means of communication, light, or entertainment. The world would be on fire.

It Already Has Happened Before

The last time the sun emitted a solar flare wasn’t 1859. It happened again On June 23, 2012, the sun emitted a solar flare that was just as energetic. It was the first time that it happened while we had the technology to monitor the sun precisely. Luckily the flare missed us by the equivalent of nine days.

Fabiano Rodrigues / Pexels
Fabiano Rodrigues / Pexels

Similar to the Carrington event, the particles traveled from the sun to the Earth in just 17 hours. If Earth had been in the way of the line of fire at the time, we would have experienced damage that costs a $10 trillion mark: the first 14-figure natural disaster in history. It’s a number we can’t even imagine and there is no guarantee that we could’ve recovered.

A Complete Blackout

If the sun does come back for us, texting back your crush will be the last of your worries. You would have to unplug every device in your home to increase your safety. However, we don’t have a system set up to protect the infrastructure set up to produce and connect our power.

satellite image of earth with lights
Pixabay / Pexels
Pixabay / Pexels

All of our power stations would get knocked down and the whole world would experience a black out. This disaster could also potentially kill thousands or even millions of people if we’re unable to restore heat and water to them as fast as possible.

But even if we know the risk, is there any way we could ever fight nature itself? Or is simply fate’s work? For all we know our days on this planet are numbered.

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Aria Misty

Aria Misty is a recent university grad. She did her undergrad in media, information & technoculture with a Master in Journalism & Communications in 2018.

Aria has a particular interest in all things astrology and spirituality. This is driven by her desire to create healing. In fact, Aria went back to school for A master’s in counseling p[…]