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Our Sun Under Close Watch

sunBe careful as scientists who monitor the sun have spotted a sunspot so big that it’s 60,000 miles across and if it erupts into solar flares could totally disrupt the electromagnetic field of Earth.

Actually it would mess up many electronic devices that we have come to rely on.  This effect called AR 1476 is huge and was first detected by the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft back in 2010. Since then NASA has been sitting there waiting for what would happen next and kept a sharp eye on it as should there be massive solar eruptions from it there could be devastating effects on Earth.  Our electronic devices and satellites have some protection from the Earth’s magnetic shield and atmosphere.  When these mass solar eruptions occur they normally pass the Earth and that’s just fine.  However, when they do on occasion hit the Earth things go awry.  The last time was in the 1800s when telegraph wires even burst into flames.

With just about a third of the planet using cell phones and computers just one blast hitting Earth would disrupt life so much that we might lose such devices for years.  That would definitely be a downer for the coffee bar set who gather to chat online.  Can you imagine what would happen to Facebook or Google if people couldn’t get online?  It would be economically devastating.  The internet itself was designed to withstand a massive solar flare but that doesn’t mean the rest of the planet can.

These solar flares are called Coronal Mass Ejections and they shoot out x rays, ultraviolet radiation, gamma rays and stuff that sounds like something falling off the starship Enterprise.

Scientists and industry are watching this event to make sure we’re safe and whether the planet’s infrastructure can stand up to the assault if any.  Will our satellites go out or will they be able to withstand it?  How about the International Space Station? Are the astronauts and cosmonauts in peril?

Normally these ejections just spark up the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights.  People really get a dazzling display when this occurs and scientists are hoping that’s all we’ll get if there is a new eruption but considering at times these CMEs do cause people to lose power for a short time.  It’s the possibility of long term damage that governments are afraid of.

Scientists are keeping a close watch over the next several years.  Some are equating these solar phenomena with the so called Mayan Calendar.  Some irresponsible people are proposing that an ancient calendar predicts the end of the world and connects the Sun with this prophecy.  This is the kind of problem scientists are trying to avoid.  Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and the Earth will just keep on going along as it’s always done.

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Posted by on May 9 2012. Filed under Editorial, Featured, Recent, Tech. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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