Easter holiday weekend – (17 April was Easter Sunday this year) – witnessed the sun unleashing a major solar flare, sparking radio blackouts and setting the stage for more solar storms to come.
According to Space.com, the Easter solar flare peaked late Saturday (April 16) at 11:34 pm EDT (0334 GMT on April 17 – Approximately 9:00 am on Sunday in India)) and was followed minutes later by a massive solar eruption known as a coronal mass ejection.
The US Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), which is overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conveyed that the flare registered as an X1.1-class sun storm (X-class storms are the most powerful ones on the sun) and lasted about 34 minutes, SWPC officials said.
The flare originated from Regions 2994 and 2993, a cluster of active sunspots that has seen “significant flaring” since it appeared on the eastern limb of the sun, according to the SWPC.
“Solar activity is expected to be active over the next week as these sunspots migrate across the visible disk,” the agency wrote in an update.
But what about humans? Can solar flares affect human health?
We spoke to Dr Hardik Dodia, Cosmetologist and Plastic Surgeon at Shalby Multispecialty Hospitals, Ahmedabad.
“Solar flares and solar storms are known to cause radio blackouts and send shock waves of radiation from the sun. These shock waves have caused considerable and widespread telecom outages and transformer explosions. A solar flare by definition is an intense flash of brightness that occurs when magnetic energy built up in the solar atmosphere is released,” Dr Hardik Dodia said.
Dr Dodia also spoke about the technological impediments solar flares can create.
“These high-energy particles and burst of UV rays are released into space and reaches the earthâ€™s atmosphere in a few days. These harmful bursts of radiation from a solar flare are absorbed by the earthâ€™s atmosphere and humans are protected from the sunâ€™s harmful solar flares. However, even though humans are protected, these radiations can cause disruptions to power grids and communication sectors by inducing geomagnetic fluctuations in the communication satellites,” Dr Dodia said.
Stay protected, avoid over-exposure, says the doctor:
“Exposure to this harmful radiation from solar storms can in some situations, cause radiation sickness and induce organ failure in rare cases. Exposure to these solar radiations is known to also result in skin malignancies and skin burns. Hence it is advised to take due precautions wherever possible. Those with skin sensitivities and weak immune systems must take adequate care and refrain from being exposed to the high noon sun rays,” Dr Hardik Dodia added.
Well, if you have been watching some Hollywood Science Fiction flicks, you might have seen the drama and emergency that cosmic events create for poor earthlings. It would seem like some solar flare will soon burn the Earth to cinders. NASA reassures that even at their worst, the sun’s flares are not physically capable of destroying Earth. So, there, now you have it.
Yes, the world has come to increasingly depend upon technological devices. Almost everyone relies on cellphones, and GPS controls not just your in-car map system, but also aeroplane navigation and the extremely accurate clocks that govern financial transactions, space weather is a serious matter.
But NASA refuses to accept that solar flares are any bigger a problem than hurricanes are. “One can protect oneself with advanced information and proper precautions. During a hurricane watch, a homeowner can stay put â€¦ or he can seal up the house, turn off the electronics and get out of the way. Similarly, scientists at NASA and NOAA give warnings to electric companies, spacecraft operators and airline pilots before a CME comes to Earth so that these groups can take proper precautions,” says NASA.
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