Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is the Earth Ready for Bigger Sun Solar Storms?

Last January 27, 2010 NASA STEREO Spacecraft captured a more active sun which can  mean bigger solar storms in the future.  "The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity," said Richard Fisher, head of NASA’s Heliophysics Division.

A sun storm is a short and sudden event: It builds up as magnetic fields in the corona of the sun form beautiful plasma arcs, and happen when the magnetic fields "reconnect": The magnetic field lines of two separate magnetic fields join and release a lot of energy, which catapults the hot plasma into space.  But the solar storm triggers a geomagnetic storm in the magnetic field of Earth, that affects power lines and pipelines, and can last for a few hours.

According to NASA report, a small coronal mass ejection (a stream of charged particles from the Sun) shoots out and into space at about a million miles per hour, carrying some magnetic field with it. The top image shows the beginning of the coronal mass ejection, while the lower image shows the solar matter leaving the Sun’s corona.
Sun coronal mass ejection
 image via NASA Earth Observatory

Recent occurences was related to  Sept. 2, 1859 incident, an incredible storm of charged particles sent by the sun slammed into Earth’s atmosphere, overpowered it, and caused havoc on the ground. Telegraph wires, the high-tech stuff of the time, suddenly shorted out in the United States and Europe, igniting widespread fires. Colorful aurora, were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii.

"What they generated was the perfect space storm," says Bruce Tsurutani, a plasma physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A day before it happened an extraordinary solar flare was witnessed by British astronomer Richard Carrington.

The Effects of Sun Storms to Earth?
A coronal mass ejection can cause problems on Earth. The energetic particles can damage the following :
Communications (mobile phones ) and web (Internet) backend operations rely on electronic information
system. Can you imagine what will happen if these can be hampered by sun storms. With the electrical and electronic power dependency of humans for its daily life, it will become vulnerable to the threats of the Earth .

Affects the travel industry, communications and navigation problems in airplanes.

Disrupt industrial and household electrical supply. A blackout is possible to occur for this incident.

Water and Sewerage. Most of the pumps used for sewerage are powered by electricity.

Technological and electronic power supply. Cable and television networks mostly rely on satellites.

Total loss can cost to 2$ Trillion worth of damage.