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How often do severe solar storms pummel the Earth?

20 Feb 2020, 14:00 UTC
How often do severe solar storms pummel the Earth?
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Every now and again, the Sun gets testy.

Huge storms erupt from its surface, some (called solar flares) firing out intense radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum, some (called coronal mass ejections) blasting out billions of tons of subatomic particles that sleet across the solar system at incredible speeds. If these storms hit Earth, they can create havoc. At best there can be minor radio interference and, perhaps, the glory of an aurora.

At worst, they can destroy orbiting satellites and cause widespread blackouts that can take months, even years, to recover from. That takes an extraordinarily powerful event, and we haven't experienced one of these megastorms since the electronic era on Earth began. But were one to happen now, and Earth faced its full brunt, the damage it caused could be global and catastrophic.

Every now and again, the Sun gets testy. But how often?

As you can see, this isn't an academic question. The economics of it are important. It could cost many trillions of dollars to clean up after a big event, and while mitigating such a disaster in advance would cost less, it's still extremely expensive. If these storms only occur extremely rarely, then should governments spend ...

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