Sun has awoken and sent solar storms Earth's way. What are the dangers?

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Bharat SharmaUpdated: May 25, 2021, 06:30 PM IST
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The Sun has awoken!

Our planet Earth does not deserve more bad news. A global pandemic which continues to kill scores everyday to the ongoing threats caused by climate change - there is a lot on our plate. And now, there’s more - The Sun has awoken!

Just a few days ago, millions of tonnes of super hot gas was ejected from the surface of Sun and shot off towards Earth. Officially known as a “coronal mass ejection”, the event wasn’t powerful enough to cause serious harm to the planet. But it did set off the strongest geomagnetic storm seen on our planet in years. Not many people even felt it. But scientists believe this points to a worrying trend in the future - that the Sun is up and running after years of dormancy.

These ejections are harmless to anyone on the Earth’s surface but have a serious potential to damage power grids, restrict radio communication, expose airline workers and passengers to toxic radiation. The worst perhaps is the ability of the waves to take satellites off the grid.

In 2020, the Sun began its new 11-year cycle which is expected to peak in 2025. Essentially, solar storms and its effects are expected to become more common in the coming years. The last time such solar storms hit our planet was 17 years ago. Over the last two decades, our reliance on technology has increased multi-fold. And scientists fear continuous increase in solar storms could potentially disrupt tech globally.

What are the potential effects?

Space weather conditions aren’t usually taken seriously by stakeholders, analysts fear, which could cause multiple losses if serious solar storms and other adverse space weather incidents were to affect Earth in the near future.

The dangers posed by space weather changes aren’t imagined. It can jam communication systems during dire situations like natural disasters as was seen during Hurricane Irma. That’s not it! Solar storms could knock off the GPS off its feet. 

In addition, people that are exposed to such storms directly namely airline crew have a higher risk of developing cataract and miscarriages.

Solar storms are caused by 11-year Sun cycles that shift the polarity of the energy source’s magnetic field. In the process, flares escape the Sun and hurl towards outer space. A strong solar flare could leave millions of people without power!