CME Season

If there is a massive ejection of material from the Sun, a coronal mass ejection (CME), billions of tons of charged particles hurled out into space, which strikes the Earth, and if the polarity of the mass lines up with the Earth’s magnetic field, the energy will discharge into the Earth’s atmosphere and, thence, into everything that can receive the energy, thus burning out all electronic equipment.  We return to the 19th century in a matter of… well… minutes.

I read this on the Daily Telegraph:

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spotted the summer’s first ‘X’ solar flare on Friday – a huge outburst from the sun right at the top of the scale.

This came on the back of 12 ‘M’ flares in just six days, with a M6.1 flare knocking out radio signals across the planet on Thursday – hinting at the destruction the sun could reign on our technology if Earth takes a full blast across its blow.
The sunspot group behind the flares – named as AR1515 – stretches across 118,681 miles (191,000km) of the sun’s surface.
This makes it’s width more than 15 Earths set end to end, said NASA solar astrophysicist C. Alex Young.

The biggest flares are known as ‘X-class flares’ based on a classification system that divides solar flares according to their strength.

The smallest ones are A-class, which are similar to normal background levels, followed by B, C, M and X.
Similar to the Richter scale for earthquakes, each letter represents a 10-fold increase in energy output, meaning an X is ten times an M and 100 times a C.
The sun is now heading into the peak of its 11-year solar flare cycle, with 2013 expected to the tumultuous year.
With the increased spread in communications in the last 11 years, a sever solar storm could cause huge issues for the planet.  [Huge issues.  That’s one way to put it.]

[…]

Ready?

 

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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12 Responses to CME Season

  1. BLB Oregon says:

    The electron was discovered in 1897. That atoms have a nucleus was discovered in 1911. The first dose of penicillin was given in the US in 1942 to a patient dying of septicemia. By August 1945, 650 billion units of penicillin were being distributed each month. The first direct evidence that DNA carried genetic information was obtained in 1943.

    Eighth graders know things now that were not even suspected in 1900. We have made such astonishing advances in basic scientific knowledge and its possible applications in the past 100 years that I’d don’t like to think what it would take to put us back into the 19th century. A solar flare would not do it. For that matter, I’m not sure we could be knocked back to the 18th century without a blow that would knock us back to something more like the 14th century.

    Back up your important documents against natural disasters and be ready for death. After that, it is probably it is better to let today’s evils be sufficient for today. Perhaps if we were as ready for death to strike as one had to be in the 19th century, that would not be such a bad thing.

  2. Timbones says:

    That settles it, I”m leaving the laptop unplugged…and switching to decafe…

  3. Bryan Boyle says:

    You can see a graphical/motion picture of the past few days and a projection of the next few at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction site:

    http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/wsa-enlil/

  4. Austin Catholics says:

    You (Fr Z) really seem interested in this kind of thing. Some conservatives might harbor an inkling that such a catastrophe would be a good thing, but it wouldn’t. Just like a few years ago when some people seemed to harbor an inkling that another Great Depression would be good for the country (the last one having been so good for out national character), but that was wrong, too.

  5. Supertradmum says:

    Nature, created by God, has been obeying His Divine Will since the first day of creation. I find it fascinating that we are dependent on nature and all things in the universe for our well-being. God in His goodness has allowed us to be creative enough to harness electricity and have such things as the Internet, computers, central heating, phones, and if He decides from all time that there will be interruptions in our lifestyles, I am very interested in how we will adapt. Up to this time, humans have adapted quite well for the most part. If we are thrown back into the 19th or earlier centuries, many of us would suffer, but maybe that is what we need…

    And, I love all these references here to astronomy. I grew up next to a national, American expert on sunspots, and we got to look at these through his amazing telescope with filters, of course. I haven’t seen him or used his telescope for two years, but what an interesting man he is. He has a planetarium named after him. Also, we always had telescopes at home and I am still following the monthly space events. Thanks for the reminder on this one, Father Z.

  6. thomas tucker says:

    Meh.
    Sounds suspiciously like a Y2K kind of worry.

  7. It is a fascinating exercise to imagine just how far back we would be pushed in such a situation. As this solar “season” approaches maximum sometime next year it is beginning to appear more and more likely that it will become a reality and not just an exercise.

    It is not that much if any knowledge will be lost that matters, though, it is what basic infrastructure will be in place to allow us to USE such knowledge. To be sure we would not go all the way back to a pre-industrial age, simply because a lot of the permanent (low tech) infrastructure – such as roads – would be there to help support us, but we as a society would have to work pretty hard and quick to make sure that things moved forward from 1850 rather than backward.

    VERY soon it will dawn on people that the lights are NOT going to come back on and their life won’t be back to normal in a few weeks. Overall, I think that after the initial shock of it all passes and the reality sinks in that things are not likely to go back to the way they were for a generation or more, people are much more likely to “get busy living” rather than “get busy dying”. The learning curve really isn’t all that steep. We know (technically speaking) how to make a circa 1840 culture “work”, so once the (forced) commitment transition to that mode of living is made things would stabilize relatively fast.

  8. pseudomodo says:

    Genesis 9:11 “I will establish my covenant with you, and all flesh shall be no more destroyed with the waters of a flood, neither shall there be from henceforth a flood to waste the earth.”

    So God promises to never devatate the earth and us with a flood — an ‘X’ class CME? maybe…

    At least there will not be a flood…

  9. AnnAsher says:

    Gettin ready ! … Aaa almost there.
    I would miss this blog and texting my very best friend every day, but otherwise I sorta think slamming us back a century or two would be good for us.

  10. Geoffrey says:

    From what I read, such prospects would be catastrophic for the world. Granted, we could live without power, etc., but society is just not capable anymore. I’ve been catching old episodes of “Little House on the Prairie” lately, and I don’t think many people could or would embrace that kind of lifestyle… I doubt I could!

    Christe, eleision!

  11. Philangelus says:

    The most major problem would be food and water. How long would New York City be able to survive without trucking in food? What would New York be like after three weeks with no power and no way to get anything edible in there?

    I’m out in the Swamp so I guess we could catch rabbits in our back yard and learn to shoot squirrels, but I wouldn’t have the first clue how to go about growing crops in our yard, and the guys up the road would have to lock up their chickens (and start selling eggs for a dollar apiece, at least until the money became valueless.)

  12. cl00bie says:

    Pray for the best, be prepared for the worst. :)