June 9

The sun spewed out a huge solar flare (called a CME, or coronal mass ejection) on Tuesday, June 7th. Fortunately, we missed the brunt of the CME.

We are approaching a period that scientists call a “solar maximum”:  an eleven-year cycle of increased solar activity. With the world’s dependence on satellites for communications, scientists are concerned that a closer approach (or direct hit) of a CME could wipe out a good portion of the world’s satellite network. It could have even more far-reaching effects, such as shutting down electrical power grids on a global scale.

This is not a pie-in-the-sky worry. As mentioned in yesterday’s PC Magazine article: “In 1859, the biggest flare on record hit, creating auroras worldwide and interrupting telegraph service for weeks. Considering today’s connected world, and our reliance on satellites, a major solar storm could be disastrous.”

Is there any way we could protect ourselves from such an event? Unfortunately, not. The sun is essentially playing roulette with our technology infrastructure. All we can do is hope that our number doesn’t come up.

To read the PC Magazine article, including an incredible video of the flare as provided by NASA, please visit http://bit.ly/iP6pId.

P.S.  If there is any good news, it is that the solar flare set the stage for aurora borealis (“Northern Lights”). If the sky is clear in your portion of the U.S. tonight (June 9th), take a peek to the north. You may be treated to an extraordinary light show.

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