The sun is acting up again as one of the closely monitored sunspots releases one of the biggest Solar Flares yet this year. The solar activity was enough to cause spectacular shows in the northern hemisphere like the Aurora Borealis with more to come in the near future. Still some are suggesting the strange increase in solar activity is spelling doom for communication and the infrastructure we all depend on. Others say it's just part of a natural, but much larger cycle.
Tuesday night the massive sunspot erupted off the surface of the sun shooting out cosmic rays the likes of which we had not yet seen this year. Of course the fact that it's only February makes the headline lose some of its bite in the media, but at the same time with the increase in attention Solar activity has received due to warnings from NASA there will certainly be more attention paid to the sun in the coming weeks and months. A piece from the BBC says this was actually the biggest solar flare in four years. And with events like solar superstorms on everyone's mind, some are suggesting a massive catastrophe could be happening as soon as this year, but NASA has suggested it's more likely to happen in 2012.
A solar storm did disrupt communication in 1880 - when the grid depended on electricity carried by telegraph wires. This simple form of electric communication resulted in some of the machines smoking and burning out before they could be repaired or replaced. Such an event today would be the end of our technologically advanced society for a period and a number of comfort items would simply cease to be - including television, radio, and even the internet - originally designed to outlast all other forms of communication even in the event of a nuclear war.
NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory has been studying the effects of the solar flare originally shot up from sunspot 1158 and has said the effects are at the moment minimal. The sunspot did not send out any rays that would damage any orbiting vessels or satellites, and some are saying it is little cause for concern at this point. The solar flare erupted in a mass of brilliant ultraviolet radiation visible by observers through advanced solar weather monitoring sensors. But the magnetic field has shown no signs of giving up just yet.
But if the idea of a solar flare having effects on Earth is too far fetched to be believed, consider that the Vancouver sun only today published an article suggesting the flare could have disrupted communication in China. If this were the case it would certainly not be the first, nor the last time it happened. The sun has been a notorious interference among HAM radio operators worldwide.
As the globe continues spinning around an increasingly erratic and unreliable sun we can only begin to wonder what the future may hold for our humble planet.