SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— NASA has reported that a shockwave from a massive solar flare of radiation will hit Earth Friday, June 13th, possibly knocking out communications and causing disruptions to satellites. The length and severity of the impact is not known, but we talked to an expert from Stanford who said it’s really only scary if you’re a spacecraft out in space.
“Here on Earth I think we’re all pretty safe,” said Dr. Todd Hoeksema, Solar Physicist and Director of Stanford’s Wilcox Solar Observatory. For the spacecraft, however, the electronic particles could come in and kill the satellites, he said. “If the wrong thing happens at the wrong time, they can also damage their power systems.”
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For astronauts, the solar flare can be pretty dangerous. Hoeksema said they might want to take shelter inside your spacecraft. “You wouldn’t want to be out doing a spacewalk during one of these events,” he advised. The reason for that being that the radiation involved hits the Earth and becomes trapped and can hit objects like the satellites.
Fortunately astronauts are for the most part safe at the space station, but if they hit high latitudes, they can be exposed to some of the same radiation affects of the solar flare.
If you’re wondering how often this occurs, Hoeksema explained that there’s an 11-year-cycle, but within that time there’s about two or three years where the sun is really active. “We’re right at the maximum right now,” he said. “These big storms like this one [happen] about once or twice a year. It just depends upon the weather.”