Holy solar-driven demise, Batman. Look at those enormous sunspots.
1785 and 1787—the names for these two groups of spots—are pretty much staring earth in the face right now.
Sun spots are dark areas of intense magnetic activity that, when the activity gets super-intense, spit out energy in the form of solar flares or coronal mass ejections. The flares/ejections fire out clouds of magnetic energy and solar material into space.
And what happens when these things hit earth? Normally, we end up with more extreme aurora that are able to be seen at lower latitudes. But if the storm of magnetism is really strong, satellites can short out and power lines are disabled.
Considering we’re supposed to be at the peak of the current 11-year solar cycle, scientists are watching the spots carefully to see what, if any, flares and ejections they will emit
and how screwed all of us electricity-dependent people will be.
We are so damn screwed when the sun decides to solar storm us to death.
In fueling my paranoia about our nearest star, I came across the Wiki article for the Carrington Event. The Carrington Event was a massive solar storm documented in 1859. In late August/early September of that year, the sun produced a bunch of sunspots, solar flares, and a giant coronal mass ejection that motored its way to earth in just 17 hours (normal travel time = 2 to 3 days). It blasted our magnetosphere and atmosphere with enough force that auroras were seen all over the globe (including in the freaking Caribbean. Can you imagine?). This was the largest geomagnetic storm ever recorded.
Telegraphs all over the world failed, with some acting very strangely—sending and receiving messages even after they’d been disconnected from their power sources.
I did some more research and, as I’ve mentioned in my science blogs before, a lot of astronomers say that we’re overdue for another mega solar storm. Some are predicting what’s being called a “Solar Katrina”—a catastrophically huge solar storm that would, if it hit earth, knock out the entire planet’s electricity for weeks, possibly even months.
Can you imagine humanity suddenly reverting to pre-electricity conditions? I can’t even comprehend the chaos/panic/death that would cause. Holy freaking sunspots.
That would make good material for NaNoWriMo though…