(CNN) – A solar storm could disrupt satellites, the power grid, or even your personal cell phone. So what exactly is a solar storm?
Now the Sun’s always been out there, there’s always been a solar wind, there’s always been solar flares, but now that we’re so dependent on satellites, on GPS, on the power grid, now we’re worried about what the Sun is doing out there.
The solar flare comes out very quickly, and it can really disrupt radio communications, especially high-latitude ratio communications. But a coronal mass ejection, when it comes toward the Earth, it is sending plasma, electrons, protons, the big solar wind, that will energize the magnetosphere and possibly even energize the Earth itself, and that’s what we’re concerned about.
Obviously, solar flares and CMEs have been hitting the Earth for billions of years, but we have now the technology in place that can be damaged by these CMEs, the satellites in place, the power grid in place.
With a big CME, or coronal mass ejection, we could lose the power grid, we could lose the satellites, we could certainly lose GPS. We think of geomagnetic storms as being fun, because we get to see the Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis, but there’s more to it than that.
It can power the grid, it can make brown-outs in our electrical grid. It can turn our satellites off, or may even have to even manually turn them off, if there’s too much energy coming at them.
So think of the world, at least, temporarily, without satellites, without GPS, without communication, a lot of things can shut down with a big CME, Earth-directed.