Our sun is always shining quietly and evenly, or so it seems…
In reality, our home star is an extremely dynamic place – what’s happening on its surface all the time are wild and turbulent, highly energetic and unpredictable events.
On July 23rd, 2012, a powerful solar storm hurled out into space and tore through Earth’s orbit. During this outburst, billion-ton clouds of magnetised plasma were ejected into space.
Fortunately, Earth wasn’t there.
If the storm had occurred a week earlier, our Earth would have been in the line of fire of the Sun’s charged particles, also hit by the magnetic field of this solar matter – with disastrous consequences for our modern High Tech world.
Power failures would have plunged the planet into darkness and left computer systems in a dangerous state of disarray. Satellites would have been massively affected as well – up to the point where they could be lost completely and forever.
The only manmade object directly hit by the solar storm was the spacecraft Stereo-A. It survived to deliver fascinating images and ground breaking data that have pushed the science of the Sun to a new level.
And not a moment too soon! We urgently need to learn more about our mysterious home star, to be able and develop better defences against its nasty and hardly predictable mood swings. Scientists have calculated that there is a substantial risk of a solar super-storm hitting the Earth within the next decade or two.
New space probes will help gathering the information scientists need to develop a reliable Space Weather forecast. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is delivering a constant stream of fascinating high definition images in nine different wavelengths from four cameras, creating a new and frighteningly vivid picture of the Sun.
The European Space Agency ESA is working on a mission to fly its Solar Orbiter to within 30 million kilometres of the Sun – closer than ever before.
And for 2024, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is planned to get even closer – within a 6 million kilometer range. The heat shield of this probe needs to be nearly 20 centimetres thick, so that it can withstand temperatures up to 1,400 degrees Celsius. Scientists and engineers have been pondering on such a project for 60 years – finally, this plan will become reality.
This film reveals the most recent findings scientists have gathered from the super storm of 2012, and the ideas how to shield the Earth’s ever more vulnerable infrastructure from the havoc wreaked by the massive electromagnetic fallout.