NASA officials and astronomers worldwide are all expressing concerns as their collective research indicates the Sun, which has been in a comparative slumber for the past 10 years, is waking up and ramping up for a Solar Max. Already, solar storms from the current cycle has generated massive flares, which hit the Earth this month, causing it to light up spectacularly. According to NASA, this is just a precursor of a massive solar storm which is building, which has the potential to wipe out the Earth’s electrical power grid, GPS tracking systems, and communications networks. This would certainly result in worldwide chaos.
A Solar Max is a super solar storm that could hit the Earth like a bolt of lightening with the magnitude of a global hurricane or earthquake. Liken to the “Hurricane Katrina for the Earth,” as the sun enters a phase known as Solar Cycle 24, the theory claims sunspots travel through the sun on a conveyors belt which carry the magnetic fields through the sun. When they hit the surface of the sun they explode as sunspots and these weakened magnetic fields travel back through the sun’s core to recharge. This process generally happens on a roughly 40-50 year cycle, however, according to solar physicist David Hathaway, the conveyor belt began speeding up between 1986 thru 1996, creating the collection of lots more magnetic fields, which points to more intense future activity. The magnetic fields swept up during this stage should begin to reappear as big sunspots between 2010 and 2012. It has been estimated it could cause $1 to 2 trillion dollars in damage to our digitally reliant high-tech infrastructure and could take up to 10 years for us to completely recover from.
These flares change the magnetic fields on Earth and can generate energy equivalent to that of 100 million hydrogen bombs says Professor Hathaway. This energy will accelerate the age of our orbiting satellites, rendering many of them unusable. No one really knows what effect the Solar Max of 2012 thru 2013 will actually have on the planet. Similar storms which occurred back in 1859 and 1921 did result in some chaos, wiping out telegraph wires and radio signal transmissions on a massive scale. The effects it would have on today’s digital communication system is unpredictable.
Regardless of the fact if the next Solar Max is the worst in history, or not as bad as the 1859 and 1921 storms, the point the astronomers want to make is, “we know it is coming but we do not know how bad it is going to be,” says Dr. Richard Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophysics division. NASA has been watching out for this storm since 2006 and there is a possibility that the storm could strike the earth on that most Hollywood of disaster dates, 2012.