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SOLAR STORMS AND THEIR EFFECTS



  May 13, 2024

SOLAR STORMS AND THEIR EFFECTS



1. What is a solar storm?
 

A solar storm occurs when the Sun emits a stream of charged particles into space, which can impact Earth. This phenomenon, often associated with periods of intense solar activity, includes events such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and solar flares. These storms are part of what scientists call space weather.

2. How do the Northern Lights occur?
 
The Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, are caused by interactions between the Earth's atmosphere and charged particles from the Sun. These particles collide with gases like oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere. Oxygen emits a green light, which is commonly seen, while nitrogen can create purple, blue, and pink colors in the sky.

3. What is the best way to view the Northern Lights?
   
The Northern Lights are visible in dark conditions and can be observed with the naked eye. However, using a phone camera may enhance the experience, as cameras can detect lighter and more colors than the human eye under low-light conditions.

4. What are solar flares and what causes them?
   
Solar flares are bursts of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun, associated with sunspots, which are cooler and darker regions on the Sun’s surface. These flares travel at the speed of light and reach Earth in just over eight minutes. Solar flares are more frequent during periods of high solar activity and can vary in intensity.

5. Why is the Sun currently so active?
   
The Sun undergoes an 11-year cycle known as the solar cycle, which includes periods of higher and lower solar activity. The phase with the most intense activity is called the solar maximum, during which sunspots and solar storms are more common. This heightened activity is due to the increasingly chaotic and tangled magnetic field of the Sun.

6. Do solar storms affect technology?
 
Yes, solar storms can interfere with technology on Earth and in orbit. While the radiation from a solar flare cannot physically harm humans on the ground due to the protective layer of Earth's atmosphere, it can disrupt the ionosphere where GPS and communication signals travel. This can affect satellite operations, navigation systems, and radio communications.



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