The sun, our closest star and the source of life for all (or most) things that live. That is till a large solar flare comes by and knocks out our communications then most of us feel like we are dying.
Yes, that is right. The sun can damage our electronics and even our electrical and communications infrastructure.
We are safe from the harmful radiation generated by our sun and that is thanks to our magnetic fields. The auroras are a reminder of just how lucky we are as they appear due to solar winds that are able to penetrate deep enough to react with our atmosphere, energizing the gasses and causing the northern lights.
We are not entirely safe though. Every so often the sun suffers what is known as solar flares. These generally occur around sun spots, areas of the sun which are cooler than the rest of the sun. These areas of the sun are more unstable than the rest of the sun and because of rapid expansions that occur in these areas the sun ejects some of its corona. This is known as a coronal mass ejection (CME).
When these flares occur in the direction of earth our magnetic fields are sometimes not strong enough to block all of the radiation and as a result some of it makes it through our atmosphere. When a really large CME occurs enough radiation could make it through the atmosphere to interfere with GPS systems, communications network, electricity grids and even damage electronics.
The radiation ejected by the sun is basically electromagnetic energy and it has the same effect on electronics as lightning when it strikes close to your home.
Sun spot activity is at a peak every 12 years or so and the most recent peak time is now. The sun currently has 21 active spots.
Read: Real-time solar activity
At this point you may be wondering why we are telling you this. Well, have you noticed any internet outages recently? Just today Telkom suffered a rather severe outage on their mobile data network and other ISPs suffered outages as well.
When CME’s occur we sometimes see an increase in IT related complaints including internet downtime, computer failures, data loss etc. It all depends on the severity of the storm and not everyone is affected.
So now you have something interesting to share at work to make you look smart.