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Solar Storms: Understanding the Sun’s Powerful Eruptions and Their Earthly Impacts

Assume you decide to watch IPL on a beautiful Sunday evening while relaxing on your couch. You’ve grabbed snacks and a cold drink and are waiting for players to come and play . When a match begins, your OTT server goes down. So, you decide to tweet. But you found that your internet connection is gone, and suddenly, your home’s electricity is also gone. You will be completely blacked out and lose connection with the world in just a matter of minutes. This could happen if a solar storm hits Earth. Yep! This is real. It happened in the year 1859. But luckily, at that time, the telegraph was the only prominent electrical instrument, and it did collapse, leaving the world disconnected.

What is Solar Storm?

Solar knots ( rings like structure at top and bottom of sun )

Magnetic Field of the Sun

So what is this solar storm, and why is it so dangerous? As the name suggests,it is something related to the sun. Our sun is basically a gas giant. It contains protons and electrons moving at high speeds. This movement of electrons produces electricity. There is a well-known phenomenon in physics called electromagnetism. It implies that electricity will produce a magnetic field.

Same happens with our sun. A magnetic field is produced around the sun and leaks throughout the solar system. Now we can imagine how powerful it is. This causes solar wind. Solar winds are same as normal winds but replace air with extremely heated particles (plasma). Sometimes electrons don’t move at uniform speed, and that’s why a greater amount of magnetic energy is produced. This creates solar knots. We can imagine solar knots as stretched rubber bands. What happens when a rubber band is stretched beyond the threshold point? It breaks. The same thing happens with these solar knots. Solar knots break and enormous amount of energy is bombarded in the direction of the planets. This is called a solar flare. A solar flare contains electromagnetic radiation, which travels at the speed of light. Solar flares can destroy radio communication and other satellites, but humanity on earth is still safe.

Then comes the most dangerous part of this eruption. Solar storm. The solar storm contains plasma, electromagnetic radiation, and CME(Coronal mass ejection) .When this hits the earth’s magnetic field (magnetosphere), Earth can’t do much, and solar superstorm havoc begins on Earth. You can imagine what will happen if such a powerful magnetic field hits electric transmission lines. Transformers will break because they can’t handle this much electricity. Whole world will be blacked out. Navigation will fail , and aeroplanes will start crashing due to the failure of navigation system . Communication system will collapse. No one will be able to connect with the world .

But why should we worry? Isn’t it a rare event ? Statistics tell us ,solar storm happens once every century. In 2012, one solar storm nearly missed Earth. Though there are debates about the exact probability, there is some non zero chance that a solar storm will hit Earth in decade.

It is a naturally occurring phenomenon, so there is nothing that we can do to prevent it, but we can keep track of information about solar weather. Solar storms do not affect any living organisms directly but can cause a lot of damage to electrical appliances.



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