How Solar Flares Could Wreak Havoc on Earth

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Image: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

The light emanating from the orb in the image above looks breathtakingly magical, doesn’t it? Yet, unfortunately, it is something far more sinister: it is a solar flare being emitted by the sun, and if scientists are correct, such phenomena could do everything from ruining our communication systems to practically destroying our planet. The reality about solar flares, however, probably lies somewhere in between these ideas of destruction and the mysterious beauty we see.


Image: NASA Earth Observatory

First, the boring stuff. Operating on an 11-year solar cycle, the sun is an always-active yet relatively predictable star. During these cycles, the intensity of solar flares gradually grows, usually causing little to no interference. Still, the intensity of solar cycles can reach a low point in the cycle, referred to as the solar minimum, and then quickly become more active and quite powerful.

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Image: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

The current cycle, which began on January 4, 2008 and is known as Solar Cycle 24, is expected to peak in June 2013. Researchers are predicting that this current solar cycle will be between a third and twice as intense as the last one, which happened in 2001.

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