Solar Flare: A Cosmic Flamethrower

Log Entry 1

All I remember saying is “Major Andy, reporting for duty”. Now, I find myself in a vessel floating in the vast expanse. I looked out the window to see a distant planet, but a look to the left revealed something much closer, almost blinding. “Thank goodness for the UV blocking windows”, I thought as I beheld the Sun in all its glory. That wasn’t all. A glance at the X-ray imager revealed an explosion of energy radiated out, with no plans of returning. The data also showed freckle-like Sunspots near the origin of the radiation. I deduced that it must be a Solar Flare.  

Solar flares are predicted by new model – Physics World

Solar Flares are typically caused by the tangling or reorganising of the strong magnetic field lines from active regions on the Sun. They send out light in almost every wavelength across the spectrum, as well as accelerated subatomic particles such as electrons and protons. 

I wonder if the first people to observe flares, Richard Christopher Carrington and Richard Hodgson, ever dreamed of being here.

The first observed flare, in 1859, was associated with a major coronal mass ejection (CME), huge outpouring of energy and material. The fastest ejections reach Earth in less than two days, travelling up to 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) per second. When the Sun is at solar maximum, the period in its 11-year cycle when its activity is at its highest, the Sun can unleash over 100 solar flares every week. A flare could be my ticket home, if only it wasn’t almost as hot as the core of the Sun, several million Kelvin! 

I remember reading, scientists classify solar flares based on how brightly they shine in x-rays, which in turn reveals some of their potential effects. The smallest C-class flares (which I probably observed) are barely perceptible on Earth, aside from the blast of light seen by x-ray satellites. Medium M-class flares can cause brief radio blackouts around the poles and minor solar storms. But the largest solar flares, called x-class events, can disrupt global events radio signals and cause stronger, longer-lasting solar storms.

In March 1989, one of the largest CME on record, caused a geomagnetic storm in Earth’s atmosphere that crippled the Hydro-Quebec power grid in Canada; that was an X15 class flare. 

Solar Flares seem like Earth’s worst nightmare, especially for a civilisation that thrives and depends on Electricity. They do have a silver lining, rather, a spectrum of green and pink- Auroras. They are created as charged particles from the sun slam into our atmosphere and cause atoms in the air to glow with vibrant colors. The best, most intense auroras appear when Earth is subjected to an onslaught from a solar flare.

The Northern Lights: Frequently Asked Questions | Hurtigruten

The images of the beautiful Aurora gives me a little peace of mind as I drift across the universe, not knowing where I’m headed. 

Transmission: Message In a Bottle

Received by Varsha and Samshrita

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