5 Disturbing Dangers of the Sun that Worry Scientists
All our lives, we have awakened to the warmth, light, and comfort of our solar chaperone — the main heavenly body in our universe. It is the most dependable thing in our lives. How could we not expect to see the Sunrise each morning?
But are we now discovering reasons to be worried about our Sun? While there does not appear to be any imminent dangers, scientists have begun to worry about some solar activities.
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Let us examine five of these disturbing dangers of the Sun¹ that have raised some concerns.
Coronal mass ejections
Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are solar explosions that create huge plasma clouds that burst outward from the surface of the Sun². They can explode in any direction and continue traveling onward on that path, quickly moving through solar winds.
CMEs typically spew billions of tons of particles into the universe, all of which could accelerate to the point of traveling several millions of miles per hour.
The question then becomes, could one of these blasts hit Earth or perhaps even annihilate it?
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NASA scientists claim that there is very little likelihood of this ever happening. But what about other damaging scenarios?
Think about our dependence on technology and electronics. Solar phenomena are quite capable of inflicting severe damage on Earth’s technological infrastructure. It is certainly plausible for CMEs to enter Earth’s atmosphere just enough to disrupt communications and electrical systems. Satellites would be the first components to go down.
Not many people realize that in 1859, a massive geomagnetic solar storm took place. It is known as the Carrington Event and was caused by a ‘mega-flare’ that caused intense geomagnetic disturbances throughout the world.
This event was so extensive that the Northern Lights were seen in Honolulu, and the Southern Lights were observed in Chile. During those times, there was hardly any electronic equipment in the world, yet telegraph operators witnessed sparks “leaping from their equipment,” some were so severe that they started fires.
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Scientists claim that a geomagnetic storm of that intensity would completely paralyze the world of today. It could cripple the media and communications, bring down satellites, and even shut down the power grid. Some assessments claim that this sort of ‘solar megastorm’ would cripple satellites for a decade or more³.
The disturbing aspect of a geomagnetic storm like this is that most scientists believe it’s just a matter of time before seeing another one like the Carrington Event.
Increase the danger of interplanetary travel
Most of us understand that life on Earth is ticking down — as the Sun only has a finite amount of energy. There will be a time in the future when our planet will lose its ability to sustain life. This is when interplanetary travel comes into the picture.
But the Sun poses a severe challenge to interplanetary travel.
Scientists tell us that two kinds of radiation come into play when leaving Earth’s atmosphere. A portion of this radiation comes from cosmic rays, and the rest comes directly from the Sun⁴.
Today’s researchers are forever working to find new ways to protect humans from the Sun’s radiation. So just a short interplanetary trip to neighboring Mars would mean extensive exposure to this deadly radiation.
So far, no space program on Earth has ever dealt with this issue as all human-crewed space flights have either been too brief or within Earth’s orbit.
The real question is, will humans figure out how to protect space travelers before the Sun runs out of energy?
UV radiation is one of the Sun’s dangers of which most humans are keenly aware⁵. Our culture has learned to monitor this radiation through the use of relatively new metrics.
Today, many weather stations furnish a daily UV index, which tells us the danger level for each day. Our skincare markets also provide an SPF rating for lotions that indicate its ability to screen out harmful UV rays from the Sun.
So there is no lack of awareness regarding UV radiation. But its danger is still getting worse with each passing day.
The main reason for this increasing danger is the depletion of the ozone layer in our atmosphere. As this protective layer burns away, we see increases in skin cancer, cataracts, premature aging, and even damage to our body’s immune systems.
The biggest concern with UV radiation is that scientists see no end to this trend.
Evaporation of all water in our atmosphere
When clinging to life in dire situations, there is always hope when water is available⁶. Aside from oxygen, water is the most important thing for sustaining life. Without it, there is no hope.
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As the Sun’s harmful rays keep burning away our atmosphere, it will also remove its moisture. Along the way, the world’s water supply will completely dry up. Then the Earth’s massive oceans will start to boil away. And finally, the Sun’s rays will destroy the atmosphere entirely and remove all of its moisture.
Our Sun is destined to become a Red Giant one day as it reaches its later stages of life. And all of us will be long gone by then.
: NASA.gov. (October 2, 2019). The Sun. https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/solar-system/sun/overview/.
: Christopher Crockett. (May 16, 2018). What is a coronal mass ejection? https://earthsky.org/space/what-are-coronal-mass-ejections.
: David Moriña, Isabel Serra, Pedro Puig & Álvaro Corral. (February 20, 2019). Probability estimation of a Carrington-like geomagnetic storm. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-38918-8.
: NASA.gov. (September 30, 2015). Real Martians: How to Protect Astronauts from Space Radiation on Mars. https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/real-martians-how-to-protect-astronauts-from-space-radiation-on-mars.
: A.K. Bharath and R.J. Turner. (June 1, 2009). Impact of climate change on skin cancer. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2697050/.
: Jillian Scudder. (February 12, 2015). The sun won’t die for 5 billion years, so why do humans have only 1 billion years left on Earth? https://theconversation.com/the-sun-wont-die-for-5-billion-years-so-why-do-humans-have-only-1-billion-years-left-on-earth-37379.