The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

The Official Student Newspaper of Tarleton State University since 1919

the JTAC

Solar flares

The history and 2024 predictions
Solar flares

The sun is one of the biggest energy sources we have today, ranking third in sustainable energy sources. The rays help plants make their own energy through photosynthesis, provide warmth to keep us healthy and regulate temperature, and produce light for us to see during the day. We often overlook how much the sun can affect us.

The sun creates the ozone layer that covers the Earth through ultraviolet radiation. Ultraviolet radiation, or UV radiation, is a type of non-ionizing radiation that the sun emits. This means that the sun constantly produces a series of energy waves made of electromagnetic fields traveling at the speed of light.

The creation of the ozone layer helps shield the planet from excessive UV radiation exposure. It assists in absorbing UV radiation in the atmosphere, making it possible for short wave radio communication to occur. This occurs through space weather, a variation in the spatial environment between the sun and the planets around it.

Spatial weather can affect communication because once the sun’s solar activity increases, sun flares can tamper with communication. Sun flares are when the sun releases intense bursts of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy along the sun’s surface. As these flares increase, the ionospheric density, also known as the  density of the atmosphere, increases and absorbs the shortwave communication we use to power the internet.

One issue that could occur is a massive solar flare that could temporarily tamper with telecommunication waves we send into the atmosphere. The sun follows an 11 year cycle, meaning that approximately every 11 years, we can observe increased activity as the sun releases massive solar flares before becoming dormant again.

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The first massive sun flare ever recorded occurred in 1859 when communication was still restricted to telegraph stations. It was recorded that strong auroral displays were created in the sky around the world, and even caused fires in multiple telegraph stations.

It is unsure as to what a major solar flare can potentially impact due to the fact that we were not reliant on the internet and radio waves in the 1800s. However, this knowledge is increasingly important because the greatest solar flare in modern society occurred in 2001. The sun’s output of energy impacted several power grids in Canada, but has yet to tamper with satellites that make telecommunication possible.

It is anticipated that the solar flare cycle will reach its peak during 2024, as scientists are beginning to observe a spike in the sun’s flare activity.

Huge solar flares could affect telecommunication, such as the satellites that help us communicate and damage rockets in space near our atmosphere. These instruments could be exposed to increased radiation that could either damage or knock them out of their orbital patterns. GPS, communication, and the internet could also become inoperable until these flares subside.

The peak of the solar flare cycle is theorized to hit in mid October, but could happen anywhere between February to October. These intense solar flares may occur until late 2025 or even 2026.

It is unlikely that the radiation damage that occurs could take down satellites and internet usage for months. This may affect smaller satellites in remote areas, but there is a very low chance it could permanently damage telecommunication.

On a lighter note, the increase in sun flare activity will bring strong auroras with vibrant and long, colorful trails in the sky. The solar maximum cycle will also provide unique viewing opportunities for the total solar eclipse which is anticipated to occur on April 8.

The sun is bright and powerful, but it can also have a dangerous side to it. Scientists will continue monitoring sun flare activity as the cycle peak gets closer, and may warn of any risks for telecommunication damages or delays.

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