April 26th, 2024

The sun provides light, warmth and life for us on Earth, but it’s also a star—a massive ball of thermonuclear and electromagnetic fury—and it would do us all well to never forget that…

Think of [a solar flare] like a bag of mousetraps: one snaps shut and jostles the bag, making others snap over and again, rapidly discharging their stored energy in a single explosive event.

Now imagine each one of these mousetraps is the equivalent of, oh, say a few hundred million thermonuclear bombs, and you will start to get the idea of how the sweatiest sci-fi apocalypse doesn’t even come close to the power of a solar flare…

Coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, are also ridiculously powerful solar phenomena. If solar flares are like tornadoes—local but intense—CMEs are like far larger hurricanes. They don’t emit much visible light, but they blast upwards of a billion tons of hydrogen into space, sometimes at speeds of several thousand kilometers per second.


And, you know, the point of the piece is that you really don’t want to be home when a big one comes calling.

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