Presentation on theme: "Are solar flares a health hazard?. Though we’re far more likely to suffer from accidents or illnesses originating on Earth, we can’t help but wonder what."— Presentation transcript:
Are solar flares a health hazard?
Though we’re far more likely to suffer from accidents or illnesses originating on Earth, we can’t help but wonder what dangers might fall from the sky. Chance of being struck by lightning: 1 in 750,000 Chance of being hit by a meteor: 1 in 150 trillion
Do solar flares pose a health risk here on Earth? First, a little background information ….
Sunspots give rise to flares, the most violent events in the solar system. In a matter of minutes, a large flare releases a million times more energy than the largest earthquake.
Solar flares are rated as C (weakest), M (middle) or X (strongest). A typical strong flare might measure X-1 to 2.
Since late October 2003, giant sunspots have been causing numerous X-class flares. On November 4 the sun emitted a flare measured as X-28, the strongest in recorded history.
During solar flares, astronauts in the International Space Station must take refuge in a shielded area to avoid exposure.
Increased solar activity can interfere with or even cripple satellite function.
How do solar flares affect us on Earth? Radio blackouts may disrupt communication. Increased radiation may penetrate as far as the upper atmosphere.
What about exposure on Earth? Our atmosphere protects us from most radiation, so solar flares have almost no effect on the Earth’s surface.
Crew and passengers on aircraft flying at high altitudes may be exposed to radiation equal to a medical chest x-ray.
Auroras are visible at more southerly latitudes than usual. In the US auroras have been seen as far south as Oregon, Michigan and Wisconsin. Solar flares offer a unique opportunity:
Unless you’re an astronaut in space, the risks from solar flares are extremely low, so sit back and enjoy the view.