Solar flare

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Description or Situation

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Overview

Solar flares are events related to activity occurring on and from the sun. These are natural events which occur regularly and have very little impact on the impression they give to most intelligent species living on planetary spheres near by. This is largely due to the lack of large scale events occurring while humans have had the ability to monitor and measure them. Explosive and potentially deadly events have happened in the past and will happen again in the future. It is only a matter of timing as to when. Technological advancements allow us to monitor the suns activity more closely and what has been revealed as a result depicts changes in activity which has caused concern for the future. Despite scientific claims made regarding this being cyclic in nature the sun and relative stars have a given life span which inevitably equivalates to a process of change. Each one has a beginning and an end which can be summarized with a description associated with deterioration. These changes in the suns activity have direct effects and impacts on planetary life. The Earth is close enough to it's sun to experience devastating effects which have the potential to decrease large volumes of life here on Earth if the conditions and timing are present. It is understood that life is protected on Earth as a result of atmospheric shielding. A breach or hole developing in the atmospheric shield does present issues for continual protection in the future. There are signs of deterioration and growing weak spots occurring within the atmospheric shield. The odds of a CME, (coronal mass ejection), or solar flare hitting the breach or hole in the atmosphere is considered low but can happen. If such an event occurs, ... life on Earth will change for many of its inhabitants.

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 The following is intended to aid those seeking information related to the understanding and potential effects associated with solar flares.

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What is a solar flare?

Sometimes a sudden, rapid, and intense variation in brightness is seen on the Sun. That is a solar flare. A solar flare occurs when magnetic energy that has built up in the solar atmosphere is suddenly released. On the Sun's surface are huge magnetic loops called prominences. When they touch, they short circuit each other, setting off explosions. The amount of energy released is the equivalent of millions of 100-megaton hydrogen bombs exploding at the same time! A solar flare contains high energy photons and particles, and is released from the Sun in a relatively short amount of time (a few minutes). [Source]

[According to Wikipedia]  ⇒  A solar flare is a sudden flash of brightness observed near the Sun's surface. It involve s a very broad spectrum of emissions, requiring an energy release of up to 6 × 1025 joules of energy (roughly the equivalent of 160,000,000,000 megatons of TNT, over 25,000 times more energy than released from the impact of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 with Jupiter). Flares are often, but not always, accompanied by a spectacular coronal mass ejection. The flare ejects clouds of electrons, ions, and atoms through the corona of the sun into space. These clouds typically reach Earth a day or two after the event. The term is also used to refer to similar phenomena in other stars, where the term stellar flare applies. [Source]

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What are the effects of a solar flare?

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Even though the solar flare stays close to the Sun (relatively speaking), the material thrown in to space by these explosions is radioactive. It is potentially dangerous to spacecraft and especially to people in space. Solar flares emit radiation across virtually the entire electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves at the long wavelength end, through optical emission to x-rays and gamma rays at the short wavelength end. This radiation can corrode equipment, overload cameras or MICAS, and expose humans to dangerous levels of radiation. [Source]

In an increasingly technological world, where almost everyone relies on cellphones, and GPS controls not just your in-car map system, but also airplane navigation and the extremely accurate clocks that govern financial transactions, space weather is a serious matter. But it is a problem the same way hurricanes are a problem. One can protect oneself with advance information and proper precautions. During a hurricane watch, a homeowner can stay put … or he can seal up the house, turn off the electronics and get out of the way. Similarly, scientists at NASA and NOAA give warnings to electric companies, spacecraft operators and airline pilots before a CME comes to Earth so that these groups can take proper precautions. [Source]

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What is a CME ?

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A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a massive burst of gas and magnetic field arising from the solar corona and being released into the solar wind, as observed in a coronagraph.

Coronal mass ejections are often associated with other forms of solar activity, most notably solar flares or filament eruptions, but a broadly accepted theoretical understanding of these relationships has not been established. CMEs most often originate from active regions on the Sun's surface, such as groupings of sunspots associated with frequent flares. Near solar maxima, the Sun produces about three CMEs every day, whereas near solar minima, there is about one CME every five days.

Coronal mass ejections release huge quantities of matter and electromagnetic radiation into space above the sun's surface, either near the corona (sometimes called a solar prominence), or farther into the planet system, or beyond (interplanetary CME). The ejected material is a plasma consisting primarily of electrons and protons. While solar flares are very fast, CMEs are relatively slow. [Source]

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What are the effects of a CME?

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When the ejection is directed towards Earth and reaches it as an interplanetary CME (ICME), the shock wave of the traveling mass of solar energetic particles causes a geomagnetic storm that may disrupt Earth's magnetosphere, compressing it on the day side and extending the night-side magnetic tail. When the magnetosphere reconnects on the night-side, it releases power on the order of terawatt scale, which is directed back toward Earth's upper atmosphere.

Solar energetic particles can cause particularly strong aurora in large regions around Earth's magnetic poles. These are also known as the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) in the northern hemisphere, and the Southern Lights (aurora australis) in the southern hemisphere. Coronal mass ejections, along with solar flares of other origin, can disrupt radio transmissions and cause damage to satellites and electrical transmission line facilities, resulting in potentially massive and long-lasting power outages.

Humans at high altitudes, as in airplanes or space stations, risk exposure to relatively intense cosmic rays. The energy absorbed by astronauts is not reduced by a typical spacecraft shield design and, if any protection is provided, it would result from changes in the microscopic inhomogeneity of the energy absorption events. [Source]

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Events in history

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May 6, 2008: At 11:18 AM on the cloudless morning of Thursday, September 1, 1859, 33-year-old Richard Carrington—widely acknowledged to be one of England's foremost solar astronomers—was in his well-appointed private observatory. Just as usual on every sunny day, his telescope was projecting an 11-inch-wide image of the sun on a screen, and Carrington skillfully drew the sunspots he saw. On that morning, he was capturing the likeness of an enormous group of sunspots. Suddenly, before his eyes, two brilliant beads of blinding white light appeared over the sunspots, intensified rapidly, and became kidney-shaped. Realizing that he was witnessing something unprecedented and "being somewhat flurried by the surprise," Carrington later wrote, "I hastily ran to call someone to witness the exhibition with me. On returning within 60 seconds, I was mortified to find that it was already much changed and enfeebled." He and his witness watched the white spots contract to mere pinpoints and disappear. Even more disconcerting, telegraph systems worldwide went haywire. Spark discharges shocked telegraph operators and set the telegraph paper on fire. Even when telegraphers disconnected the batteries powering the lines, aurora-induced electric currents in the wires still allowed messages to be transmitted. "What Carrington saw was a white-light solar flare—a magnetic explosion on the sun," explains David Hathaway, solar physics team lead at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Now we know that solar flares happen frequently, especially during solar sunspot maximum. Most betray their existence by releasing X-rays (recorded by X-ray telescopes in space) and radio noise (recorded by radio telescopes in space and on Earth). In Carrington's day, however, there were no X-ray satellites or radio telescopes. No one knew flares existed until that September morning when one super-flare produced enough light to rival the brightness of the sun itself.

It was 11:23 AM. Only five minutes had passed. Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Indeed, stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii. "In the 160-year record of geomagnetic storms, the Carrington event is the biggest." It's possible to delve back even farther in time by examining arctic ice. "Energetic particles leave a record in nitrates in ice cores," he explains. "Here again the Carrington event sticks out as the biggest in 500 years and nearly twice as big as the runner-up." Lanzerotti points out that as electronic technologies have become more sophisticated and more embedded into everyday life, they have also become more vulnerable to solar activity. On Earth, power lines and long-distance telephone cables might be affected by auroral currents, as happened in 1989. Radar, cell phone communications, and GPS receivers could be disrupted by solar radio noise. Experts who have studied the question say there is little to be done to protect satellites from a Carrington-class flare. In fact, a recent paper estimates potential damage to the 900-plus satellites currently in orbit could cost between $30 billion and $70 billion. The best solution, they say: have a pipeline of comsats ready for launch.

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Other events in history

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These accounts are a rich source of information about how each flare or storm affected various technologies, and captivated the general public. Currently [August 15 , 2005], the archive includes 306 articles. [Source]

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Summery

An enormous solar flare could short out telecom satellites, radio communications, and power grids, leading to trillions of dollars in damages. This situation could lead to chaos, social disruption and more!!!

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Videos

[ How Dangerous Are Solar Flares? ]
[ Sun Unleashes Major Solar Flare at Earth ]
[ What Damage Could Be Caused by a Massive Solar Storm? ]
[ X Class Solar Flares, The Dangers We Know About, World-Wide Blackouts And 1 Million Years Of Energy ]

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 Find "solutions to solar flares"

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References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_flare

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronal_mass_ejection

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/06may_carringtonflare/

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/flare-impacts.html#.VogvtlJUXNM

http://www.qrg.northwestern.edu/projects/vss/docs/space-environment/3-what-is-solar-flare.html

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