Most of us only think of the sun in passing. On hot afternoons when we hide beneath the shade, or rainy mornings when we wish for a little light, the sun is a subject of discussion. Otherwise, it’s all too easy to forget that our planet survives on the heat from a fiery ball of hot plasma 1.3 million times its size.
With this enormous number in mind, the concept of a “solar storm” is somewhat frightening. After all, the scale of our sun is immense and its power is incredible. It seems probable we’d eventually have to reconcile the fact that we live a very short distance from it, by astronomical standards.
In truth, solar storms aren’t as dangerous as they sound. They’re part of a cycle of high and low activity that repeats every 11 years. This cycle’s “solar maximum,” or peak, occurred between 2013 and 2014. As NASA predicted, we didn’t see any catastrophic solar events like some feared.
So what exactly are “solar storms” and how do they affect the Earth? Do scientists know what causes them? If so, what are the reasons behind this fascinating phenomenon? We’ll answer those questions and others like them by taking a comprehensive look at the many intriguing aspects of solar storms.