Astronomy
Solar Flares

How Solar Flares Affect Power on Earth



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Solar Flares
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"How Solar Flares Affect Power on Earth"
Caption: Solar Flares
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Image by: NASA
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Solar flares are intense outburst of energy on the Sun´s corona. Solar flares are usually followed by huge coronal mass ejections of clouds of charged particles that are ejected into space. Solar flares occur regularly on the Sun, but are more intense during periods of intense solar activity, such as in a solar maximum. Solar flares may produce streams of highly energetic particles, which can trigger geomagnetic storms, disrupting electric power and radio communications on Earth.

Solar wind

During periods of solar activity, the Sun ejects clouds of electrons, ions and atoms in a phenomenon known as coronal mass ejection. The highly charged particles travel through space in the form of the solar wind and may take a day or two to reach the Earth. These highly charged particles present a risk to astronauts and spacecraft, as they can damage the electronics and cause biochemical damage to men in outer space.

Solar flare damage

Solar flares are classified as A, B, C, M and X based on their energetic output, with the X class being the more powerful. Solar flares can produce streams of highly energetic particles, damaging spacecraft´s electronics and presenting a threat to both astronauts and spacecraft. Massive solar flares can disrupt electrical power on earth for extended periods of time. X class flares produce radiation storms of charged particles at the poles that produce Auroras and present a threat of radiation to passengers flying on board airplanes.

Consequences

In the past, there have been instances when a solar storm has affected the functioning of the power system, such as city transformers. A solar storm in 1859 affected the telegraph system with so intense currents of electricity that the telegraph system functioned, for extended hours, with the current induced by auroras. This could lead to believe that solar storms are beneficial; however, to much electric energy on the Earth´s electric devices could lead to render them useless.

Solar maximum

The frequency of solar flares varies, depending on how active the Sun may be. When the Sun presents signs of high activity, several solar flares may be detected every day; however, when the Sun present signs of low activity, the occurrence of solar flares may be of one or none through the week. Solar flares are known to be produced with more frequency during the period when the activity on the Sun is more intense, such as in a solar maximum.

Solar flares in modern days.

In present days, the use of electricity is essential. Electricity is used to power the modern world. Without electricity, the world as we know it would come to a halt. Since much of the world´s economy depends on electricity, the consequences of experiencing a high energy solar storm in the following years would be catastrophic. According to nasa.gov, the solar maximum, which is a period of increased solar activity began in 2010 and should reach its peak on the last months of 2014. Solar flares could affect the radio and TV signals on Earth.

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