Introduction: Magnetic Storm (01:23)
The National Academy of Sciences' 2009 research report indicates that the impacts of a solar storm could be catastrophic to current civilization.
Projected Consequences (05:34)
Coronal mass ejections create auroras seen across the northern hemisphere; 90 minutes after the display, the magnetic flare overloads power lines and explodes transformers. Electricity and communication systems burn out, and infrastructure is damaged; people are immobilized. In 1989, a solar storm wiped out power to Quebec.
Magnetism is one of the four fundamental forces of physics; magnetic fields, following field lines, make matter solid. Coronal mass ejections are produced by field line collisions; a direct hit would be catastrophic to Earth's civilizations.
Earth's Shield (09:03)
The sun constantly emits matter, but the Earth's magnetosphere repels plasma; polar openings allow charged particles entry, and produce auroras. Light is not magnetically charged and passes through the field. The planet converts mechanical energy to magnetic energy and changes direction every 100,000 years.
Observing the Sun (03:52)
The Solar Dynamics Observatory monitors the heliosphere; it measures magnetism, ultra violet rays, and core behavior. All solar activity is magnetic; intensely heated plasma creates moving currents and flowing charges. A sun spot is a magnetic field twisted on itself, creating a vortex, and can lead to arching solar flares.
Space Weather (03:21)
Solar flares can affect satellites; astronauts must be informed of event predictions to avoid radiation. Current technologies can roughly foresee activities, such as solar maximums, when coronal mass ejections are frequent.
Mars Scenario (07:27)
Jupiter's magnetic field is the strongest in the solar system; Mars has only remnants, known as paleomagnetism. Studies of ALH 84001, a four billion year old Martian meteorite, reveal aspects of the planet's history. Reversal of Earth's magnetic poles would result in destruction.
Historic Storm Today (05:56)
In 1989, a solar flare hit North America, wiping out power in Quebec. In 1859, a storm ten times larger produced auroras seen in Cuba and shorted out telegraph lines. If the same barrage occurred today, all electric systems would fail, with other infrastructures soon to follow; solar observation and retro fitting may help avoid catastrophes.
Importance of Magnetism (01:18)
Electromagnetism is essential in human lives and one of the basic forces of the universe. (Credits)
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