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Do we need to worry about solar storms?

(People's Daily Online)

08:26, February 27, 2013

(File Photo)

On Feb. 6, the Daily Mail website published an article saying the earth will be facing the solar activity peak and that solar storm and other activities during the peak year may lead to power outages, communications malfunction and other phenomena.

Many Chinese media describe the event with the words "once in a lifetime" and "the largest in history" when quoting the news.

Some Chinese media said NASA is the source of report about the catastrophic solar storms. However, no relevant news is found on NASA website for the time being.

The intensity of solar activities which is mainly indicated by the amount of sunspots and flares changes periodically in 11-year circles. During the peak time, activities are intense on the sun's surface, ejecting a large number of charged particles and rays into space to form a solar storm.

Throughout the cycle of sunspot activity, the range of big sunspot can be up to 200,000 kilometers, 15 times larger than the diameter of the earth. Therefore, in terms of scale, the reported "sunspot activity six times the diameter of the earth" can only be regarded as "intermediate level". Such a level of sunspot activity is considered normal during solar maximum.

A large number of high-energy particles emitted during solar storms, sunspots and other solar activities will interfere with electromagnetic signals, damage electronic components, among other things, which may cause short-term impact on wireless communications, earth satellites, and power supply.

(File Photo)

However, a large number of solar energetic particles are shielded because the earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere plays a role of "protective umbrella”. Due to the earth’s magnetism, countries near the polar circle are more vulnerable to the impact of solar storms. For example, the solar storms in 1989 led to power interruptions in parts of Canada.

It takes two to three days for the material ejected by the solar storms to reach the earth. The impact can be dodged on the greatest degree by responses in advance relying on forecasts and warnings provided by various domestic and international monitoring networks.

Experts at the National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences said that the solar maximum in this year is not as strong as expected. In fact, when solar storms occur, human beings basically cannot feel any difference at all.

Read the Chinese version at:太阳 风暴危害被妖魔化了; Source: People's Daily; Author:Zhang Miao

Email|Print|Comments(Editor:ChenLidan、Ye Xin)

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