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Can a solar storm destroy Earth?

Can a solar storm destroy Earth?

By daniele

Given the necessity to shield Earth from the most severe kinds of space weather -enormous bursts of electromagnetic energy and particles emitted by the Sun on rare occasions – some people are concerned that a massive “killer solar flare” could unleash enough energy to destroy the planet. Some believe that 2012 will coincide with a solar flare, citing the correct fact that solar activity is already ramping up in its usual 11-year cycle.


The Sun is a dynamic star. A solar flare will occasionally erupt from the Sun, sending a minor ripple across the Earth’s magnetic field. Coronal mass ejections, a flare-related phenomenon, create highly intense eruptions from the Sun, which are the primary source of significant space weather occurrences. These eruptions are essentially massive gas and magnetic flux bubbles that may convey up to a billion tons of charged particles at speeds of several million miles per hour. These clouds and shock waves occasionally cause geomagnetic storms.

What is Geomagnetic storm and what can they do?

Geomagnetic storms are large disturbances in the magnetosphere, which is the region around our planet influenced by our magnetic field. Storms can produce magnificent auroras in the night sky, but they can also disrupt Earth’s power grids and navigation systems.

  • One of the last geomagnetic storms with a significant impact on Earth happened on August 7, 1972. By unleashing an enormous magnetic storm, a gigantic solar flare erupted from the Sun’s surface, damaging radio waves, telecommunication networks, and electrical systems.

What effects can occur on Earth

Space weather is a severe issue in an increasingly computerized society, where practically everyone relies on cell phones, GPS controls your in-car map system and airplane navigation, and the incredibly accurate clocks that govern financial transactions.

  • However, it is a problem in the same way as hurricanes are. With previous knowledge and sufficient safeguards, one can protect oneself. During a hurricane warning, a homeowner can stay put or seal up the house, turn off the electronics, and get out of harm’s path. Before a CME hits Earth, scientists at NASA and NOAA issue warnings to energy companies, spacecraft operators, and airline pilots so that they can take appropriate safeguards. 
  • One of the reasons NASA studies the sun and space weather is to improve these predicting abilities in the same manner that weather prediction has improved over the last few decades. We can’t ignore space weather, but we can take precautions to keep ourselves safe. Even at their most powerful, the Sun’s flares are incapable of physically destroying Earth.