Photo from NASA Images
Photo from NASA Images

The sun’s energy is comprised of radiation and charged particles, released through eruptions of magnetic fields. These are known as solar storms. If they hit the Earth, they distort our planet’s magnetic fields. Solar storms cause excitement among particles in Earth’s upper atmosphere. Later, these particles start to release energy in the form of lights that comprise auroras. Electrical currents coming from solar storm might overwhelm power grids on Earth and deprive us from electricity and the comfortable life related to it.

In 1859, a solar superstorm collided with our planet. It was so massive that it sparked auroras all over the world and disrupted telegraph lines in Europe and North America. This catastrophe was called the Carrington event. In 2012, people all over the planet were expecting the end of the world according to popular interpretation of the Mayan calendar. Not many were aware that Earth fortunately missed a solar storm that could have tremendous consequences for everyday life and global economy.

Photo from NASA Images
Photo from NASA Images

Since we are becoming increasingly dependent on technology, solar storms are a serious threat. Imagine what it would be like to live without digital devices, light, water, and access to bank accounts for one day, several months, or even several years. Scientists have estimated that if a solar superstorm hits the Earth today, a period ranging from 4 to 10 years would be necessary for recovery. What is more, it could cost us $2.6 trillion.

With these shocking numbers in mind, the question remains: is a solar superstorm going to hit us tomorrow? Science offers optimistic prognoses for us. Solar storms that are similar to the Carrington event in scale happen once in 500 years. This means that the next time we should expect a solar superstorm is in the 24th century.

Despite the fact that the catastrophe is unlikely to happen in our lifetime, the long-sighted governments are preparing for the event. These governments are investing money into searching for alternative sources of energy to support our infrastructure in case a collision between Earth and a solar superstorm occurs.