Solar Flares

Solar Flares

Brooks Hohorst, Staff Writer

If you’ve ever had a sunburn, you know that the sun is not always friendly. But soon, you’ll learn just how powerful the sun can be – and it’s not just a couple of days of a rash. A solar flare is a incredible release of radiation and energy from the sun, and Earth is more or less in the direct line of fire. 

The sun is made of hydrogen and helium that has become plasma. Solar flares are caused by loops and magnetic lines coming off the sun’s surface. 

This causes plasma rain to fall onto the surface of the sun. That’s a rainstorm that doesn’t sound very refreshing on a hot day! But when the loops are highly unstable, and if they get too close they can connect and short-circuit, making for an incredible release of energy.

In this picture you can see the loops of plasma with plasma rain dripping from them.

According to Phil Plait, an astronomer, “Solar flares happen a lot, and they do affect us. They have affected us in the past and they will affect us again in the future.” Solar flares are dangerous because they cause a wave of radiation to head towards earth, which can affect satellites, navigation systems, astronauts in space and even the electrical grids on earth. Indirect solar flares have caused radio blackouts in the past. The X-Class, the most powerful kind of solar flare, was reported to have hit Earth in 1859. It was called the Carrington event because our electrical grid did not yet exist, so it only resulted in a dazzling display of aurora in the earth’s atmosphere. However, if that happened to us now, things would not be the same. We could lose our electrical grid for years, and if all our appliances were plugged into the electrical grid, they would never work again! There is a 12% chance that this will happen in these next five years, the sun’s most active time in its eleven year cycle. 

If our electrical grid were to be destroyed by a solar flare we wouldn’t be able to save it. However, you can save all your devices and appliances, in case a solar flare happens! If you hear on the news that a solar flare is coming, wrap devices that you have that are connected to the internet in tin foil. If they are plugged into an outlet, unplug them, or they will never work again. If you want to stay safe you should also turn off all the power in your house, just in case.

So the next time you look up at the sun, think about how it allows us to live, but also the danger it poses to us. Also think about how far away it is and how many events happen due to its presence daily, but don’t look up and think about it too long, or else you might see stars!

                                                    Works Cited

News, Accessed 6 December 2022.

Science Channel GO – Watch TV Shows Online, Accessed 6 December 2022.

Spaleta, Steve. NASA, Space Exploration and Astronomy News, Accessed 6 December 2022