“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.” -Alexander Graham Bell

The Sun, contrary to what you might normally think about it, isn’t a constant, uniform source of radiation. It has an active surface, replete with temperature variations, sunspots, and occasionally a large flare or mass ejection.

Image credit: NASA / GSFC / SDO.

Image credit: NASA / GSFC / SDO.

But on very rare occasion, a flare like this makes it way through space and just happens to make its way towards Earth, where this hot, fast-moving ionized plasma collides with us. While the aurorae it produces can be spectacular, some of the other unwanted effects can be catastrophic!

Image credit: NASA / ISS expedition crew 23.

Image credit: NASA / ISS expedition crew 23.

What will it means if we get hit by a big one? Find out the truth — separated from sensationalism and fear — here!

Comments

  1. #1 Walter Jeffries
    Vermont and used to living
    July 25, 2014

    Typo:
    3.) Out atmosphere
    should be:
    3.) Ou__R__ atmosphere
    Sort of.

  2. #2 Hank Roberts
    July 25, 2014

    So I’m guessing I pull the main breaker — the big one that has 2 handles — that still leaves the ground wire. Since I don’t think I can count on my electrical utility to respond in a timely way.

    Then maybe shut off the gas? Because those pipes will carry a surge too, right?

    Heck, I dunno.

  3. #3 Anon Amust
    July 26, 2014

    Particles are not ‘bent’, they are deflected. Sloppy language for a science based article.

  4. #4 Markus Roberts
    United States
    July 26, 2014

    I think you may be either missing the point of some of concerns, or setting up a straw man argument. The concern (at least as expressed by more responsible sources) isn’t that anyone is facing direct, personal danger for a CME but rather that the resulting infrastructure damage (GPS, power grid, air traffic control systems, mission critical electronics in utilities, hospitals, manufacturing, etc.) would be a massive blow to the world economy, and people would suffer from the secondary and tertiary impacts of this.

  5. #5 Aubrey Kohn
    July 30, 2014

    Is there any hope of actually getting informed in advance of collision? Unless someone is capable and responsible for alerting the general population — and actually willing to do so as warranted, we’re all gonna die.

  6. #6 Shea
    Mississippi
    October 7, 2014

    I came here from Medium. I just want to say that I love what you are doing here. Thank you for the information.

Current ye@r *