Do solar flares pose an existential threat to the earth?

Do solar flares pose an existential threat to the earth?

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NASA officials said Friday that an upcoming solar flare does not pose an existential threat to the earth.

Responding to reports that sun, which is slated to peak in its 11-year cycle in 2012, would launch a solar flare the size of multiple earths, possibly stripping large portions of the earth’s atmosphere.

There simply isn’t enough energy in the sun to send a killer fireball 93 million miles to destroy Earth, NASA heliophysicist Alex Young said.

“Most importantly, however, there simply isn’t enough energy in the sun to send a killer fireball 93 million miles to destroy Earth,” NASA officials wrote in a statement.

The sun is indeed building up toward the peak of its 11-year activity cycle. But that peak is expected to come in 2013 or 2014, not 2012, researchers said, noting that NASA officials are closely monitoring the situation.

A sunspot is a magnetically active region on the sun that appears dark because it’s relatively cooler than the surrounding area—6,000ºF versus 10,000ºF. The current solar flare is thought to originate from a giant cluster of sunspots, several of which are larger than our entire planet.

NASA officials noted that this same solar cycle has occurred over millennia and anyone over the age of 11 has already lived through such a solar maximum with no harm.

Still, NASA officials warned that the solar flare could disrupt an increasingly technological world. National power grids could overheat and air travel severely disrupted while electronic items, navigation devices and major satellites could stop working after the Sun reaches its maximum power in a few years.

Scientists at NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration can give warnings to electric companies, spacecraft operators, and other concerned entities when the most intense forms of space weather are on their way, officials said.

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