What is a solar storm and what do they do?

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Solar storms occur when flares (electrons and protons) eject from the sun, resulting in huge energy outbursts. These energy flares result in an outflux of electrical and magnetic charges (cosmic rays) that shoot towards Earth.

According to space.com, these electrical and magnetic charges generate huge “electrical currents that act as a magnetic dynamo inside the sun”. These energy charges build up extraordinary momentum, reaching unthinkable speeds (between 2-3 million miles per hour).

Solar storm ejection outbursts are interlinked with solar cycles. Solar cycles are cycles of solar acitivity that occur in patterns of between 8-14 years. Solar cycles aren’t easy to anticipate, despite their regularity and frequencies.

Solar stom energy flares and debris pose extreme dangers to any orbiting spacecraft technology or space-spation-based astronauts. All radiation systems must be temporarily deactivated during a solar storm.

How often do solar flares hit earth?

According to research by Dr. S.C. Chapman, published via the Advancing Earth & Space Science online library, there is “a 4% (28%) chance of at least one great (severe) storm per year over 14 solar cycles.”

Large solar storms occur signficantly less (around one storm per 25 years) in comparison to smaller, but more frequent storms (around one storm per 3 years). Dr. S.C. Chapman analysed historical data over the previous 14 solar cycles in order to conclude an average estimated event-occurance.

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What happened in the solar storm of 1859?

Since records began, “The Carrington Storm” is the largest solar storm ever recoreded, occuring during “solar cycle 10” in 1859. During the storm, auroral displays were reported all accross the world.

A British astronomer called Richard Carrington observed an eruption of bright light on the suns surface, dubbing it the Carrington Storm / Event. The auroral displays would have resulted in the Northern and Southern Lights appearing at both equator poles (and therefore visible from multiple continents, as widely reported at the time).

Some extraordinary accounts were documented at the time of the event! Miners working in the Rocky Mountains in North America reportedly woke up and started preparing breakfast in the middle of the night, assuming that morning had already arrived. This was ofcourse as a result of the extremely bright auroral displays taking place above them.

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