I hope the sun wrecks us. I hope the sun wrecks us so bad. That would be so dope. Really show us who is boss of the solar system. Oh, we think we are boss of it. We think just because we can harness its power we have asserted dominance over our nuclear star.
Nah. The sun is just waiting to drop a bomb on us. And one sun-studying scientist believes we are ripe for a super solar flare, which is 1,000 times stronger than anything humans have ever seen.
At the recent Space Weather Workshop in Boulder, sponsored by NSF, NOAA, and NASA, [Kazunari Shibata, an astrophysicist from Kyoto University in Japan] gave a sobering presentation on the possibility of “superflares,” solar flares which contain energy 1,000 times larger than what has been observed in modern times.
Solar flares are troubling as is, with their ability to disrupt communications satellites and fuck up Earth’s electrical systems. But in all the time since we invented technology, we haven’t seen a quality solar flare. Just little bullshit baby ones.
The NOAA Space Weather Scales classifies flares by peak x-ray output on a 1-5 scale (R1-R5), with a flare rated “extreme” (R5) said to occur less than once a solar cycle. In this current cycle, no flare has exceeded the strong (R3) level.
A solar cycle lasts about 11 years. Weak ass solar cycle. My balls. But by looking at other stars, scientists have predicted our sun is ripe for a massive one.
The NASA Kepler mission, launched in 2009, has been looking for Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. Kepler has seen a lot of stars and has shown, through further analysis, that many have properties similar to our Sun. In fact, scientists have observed over 80,000 such stars. Hiroyuki Maehara and colleagues published a study (Nature, 2012) that found – after painstakingly analyzing the Kepler observations over a period of 120 days – evidence for 365 “superflares” on these stars. These eruptions are thought to be physically similar to what our Sun produces, drawing the energy from the magnetic field in sunspots.
Maehara’s work suggests that a superflare could occur every 800 to 5,000 years on Earth..
And since we started looking at space and writing things down, we haven’t seen anything close.
The largest known solar flare to affect Earth in the last 200 years occurred in 1859, known as the “Carrington” event, named after Richard Carrington, the astronomer who observed it. It produced auroras as far south as Cuba, El Salvador and Hawaii.
That was back when the most important piece of technology the world owned was a sextant somewhere in Portugal. Nowadays?
A National Academy of Sciences study in 2008 said a similar event happening today could produce a devastating economic impact exceeding $2 trillion – largely due to damages to the electrical grid and satellite systems.
One wonders of the impact of a superflare – more powerful than the Carrington event – on Earth today given the technologies we rely on, and their vulnerabilities.
Like I said man, the Sun is just waiting to own us. And we are due.
I can’t wait.
We should have never stopped worshiping it.