With the solar maximum of 2012 building up the sun is putting on quite a show for us all. The sun, our all gas jolly giant is due to reach the peak of its solar flare activity in 2013. The peak called Solar Maximum is generating a lot of interest. Scientist have calibrated instruments, created classifications, the rest of us just have to sit back and enjoy the wild ride. We actually know a lot about how the flares happen we just can’t do much about it.
Solar flares – also called Mass Coronal Ejection – consist mainly of super excited protons and electrons, heated to millions of degrees before spewing out of the sun. The individual particles don’t have enough mass to do any direct damage, no bullets from the sun, but collectively there is so much energy being sent out in the flare that they can be very dangerous. At most risk are astronauts and soon to join them space tourists. When travelling outside the Earths magnetic field the radiation – especially X-rays and Gamma rays – is extremely dangerous to living organisms, doing damage to each cell in your body. Currently no space craft are able to completely protect its crew from this radiation. Ironically Solar Flares actually cut the number of cosmic rays hitting Earth by deflecting the stream – solar wind – of particles.