What would happen if a solar flare hit the Earth? Extreme ultraviolet light streams out of an X-class solar flare as seen in this image captured on March 29, 2014, by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. This image blends two wavelengths of light: 304 and 171 Angstroms, which help scientists observe the lower levels of the sun's atmosphere. (NASA)
What would happen if a solar flare hit the Earth?
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You asked us.
 
What would happen if a solar flare hit the Earth?
 
Well, if you want to be really picky about it, a solar flare can't hit the Earth. It's an eruption on the surface of the sun. But a big flare can send a solar super storm hurtling towards Earth. It could blast us back into the days before electricity. 

It's hard to describe how much scary stuff comes out of a solar super storm. It includes hot gasses moving at near light speeds, deadly radiation, insane magnetic fields, you name it. We had a taste of a pretty big solar storm back in 1859. It knocked out the entire telegraph system in the U.S. and literally jolted some of the operators out of their seats. 

Fast forward to today, where we're so completely dependent on technology that things can get really ugly. A storm as powerful as the 1859 version will probably fry a lot of satellites and our electrical grid. Millions of people could be without light, water, fuel, sewage treatment, perishable food and meds for months.
 
And not to mention money. Your cash machine will be kaput. 

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What does the author mean by "fast forward to today?"
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (95)
  • irelandg-sla
    9/18/2015 - 11:43 a.m.

    I think this article was really interesting and cool. If a solar flare were to hit the Earth, we would be left without a lot of things; Like power, medication, Gas, extra. I honestly feel like this wouldn't happen again in the future. If it did however, it would be quite an eventful time in history, in my opinion, at least. It would most like effect everyone on the planet. And I wonder how it effect the animals. Would they die? or would they be left the same before the solar flare?
    I've also heard about the solar flare that hit the Earth in 1859, But people never really told me about how it effected people at the time. But now I know.

  • terrim-win
    9/20/2015 - 11:05 a.m.

    I hope a solar flare never happens. If it does there will be no school because of no money. If the passage it states that I travels as fast as light. Now that's scary.

  • christopherc-win
    9/20/2015 - 06:09 p.m.

    I think that it would be pretty cool to experience a solar flare! On the other hand it would stink if we couldn't use our technology.

  • natalieg-win
    9/20/2015 - 09:34 p.m.

    the picture looks cool but I don't want that to happen because it would have been deadly

  • natalieg-win
    9/20/2015 - 09:46 p.m.

    interesting but scary because deadly radiation

  • ethanb1-win
    9/20/2015 - 11:32 p.m.

    When the solar storm hit the Earth in the 1859 it knocked out the entire telegraph system in the US?If it hit us today the damage would be worse because now days we depend on electricity a lot more than we did earlier.

  • gellermang-rei
    9/21/2015 - 03:41 p.m.

    The author is talking back to 1859 and how that all of their electricity would be fried but then he says to fast forward and think of today if a solar flair would hit the Earth because we rely on tech so life would be hard because all tech would be fried.

  • alekyaa-win
    9/21/2015 - 03:46 p.m.

    The author was talking about the past then he said fast forward today and that means he is talking about the present.

  • nikhileshe-win
    9/21/2015 - 03:49 p.m.

    If that solar flare hits us there is 0% of us living

    • buckale0-dil
      1/08/2016 - 01:50 p.m.

      Not 0% because some things could survive, like cockroaches who can survive almost everything.

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