Solar Storm: What do you know about it?

by Joy Festus
4mins read

Most people think that outer space is cold and unchanging, perhaps due to the way cameras present it in documentaries, but space weather is actually quite dynamic. Charged particles and radiation (mainly from the sun) move through space and affect the Earth and other planets.  Solar storms are examples of such dynamic activities.

Read on to understand the phenomenon behind solar storms.

The sun is a giant ball of molten plasma, humming with magnetic fields coming and going across its surface. Sometimes, these fields collide, creating a massive explosion that throws charged subatomic particles into space, carrying with them the ability to disrupt the electric field and cause radioactive exposure. As these particles travel through space, they can collide with Earth. Our sun is approaching its next peak of activity, and with it, more solar storms are likely to emerge. The next peak in the solar storm cycle is July 2025.

What exactly is a solar storm? 

Solar storms are disturbances of the Sun, possibly emanating from the heliosphere, affecting the entire solar system, including Earth and its magnetosphere, and causing space weather, short-term with long-term patterns including space weather.  In addition, similar thunderstorms are powerful bursts of radiation from the sun. They are created when the sun’s magnetic field lines become strained and broken, causing massive bursts of energy from the sun. This energy is made up of charged particles, such as protons and electrons, which travel through space at extremely high speeds.

How do solar storms form?

The sun follows a regular cycle. In 11 years, solar activity peaked. When it peaks, the sun’s magnetic field actually reverses – the north pole becomes the south pole and the south pole becomes the north pole. When this happens, the sun begins to return to minimal activity. During an active part of the sun’s 11-year life cycle, telescope users equipped with special solar filters to observe the sun – or photograph the sun – can see sunspots scattered across the sun’s surface. Space observatories will detect short-lived but bright and powerful solar flares – intense bursts of radiation and the largest explosive events in our solar system – lasting minutes to hours on the sun’s surface.

As the electrical energy from the sun pours into our magnetosphere, the atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere become charged, creating effects seen around the world. During such storms, the aurora borealis, usually only visible near the North Pole, may descend until visible near the equator, wowing us with beautiful colours.

Solar storm

Illustration of solar storm.
Photo credit: unsplash

Kinds of solar storms 

1. Solar flare: A massive explosion in the Sun’s atmosphere caused by entanglement, intersection, or rearrangement of magnetic field lines.

2. Solar Particle Event (SPE), Proton or Storm Energy Particle (SEP).

3. Coronal Mass Ejection (CME): A massive explosion of plasma from the Sun, sometimes associated with solar flares.

4. Aurora: luminous phenomenon caused by ionization and excitation of components of the upper atmosphere of a planet.

5. Geomagnetic storms: the interaction of the solar explosion with the Earth’s magnetic field.

What dangers does it pose?

Powerful coronal mass eruptions, or CMEs – giant bubbles of gas and magnetic fields from the Sun, containing up to a billion tons of charged particles that can travel several million miles per hour – are released into the atmosphere. interplanetary environment. This solar matter flows through space and sometimes hits the Earth. Is it dangerous? Should humans be worried?

Solar storms pose no danger to humans on the Earth’s surface. These storms are amazing to see, but they cannot harm our human bodies as long as we stay on the surface of the Earth, where we are protected by the Earth’s atmosphere. Remember that there is every reason to believe that solar storms have occurred billions of years since the sun and earth first appeared. If so, then all life on Earth evolved under their influence.

 How dangerous are solar storms in space? 

Very high-energy particles, such as those carried by CME, can cause radiation poisoning in humans and other mammals. They would pose a danger to unprotected astronauts, such as astronauts traveling to the moon. Large doses can be fatal. However, Earth has a huge advantage in space weather. All you have to do is stay within the Earth’s magnetic shield and you will be safe.

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