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Starts With A Bang

Starts With A Bang podcast #89 – The active threat of the Sun

Here on Earth, the Sun is our primary source of light, heat, and energy. But it also poses a grave threat to human civilization.
This illustration shows a massive space weather event, larger than a typical solar flare, known as a surface mass ejection. Although SMEs have the capacity to entirely destroy a planet, they're thankfully limited to occurring on red supergiants, a class of star that will never include our Sun or anything it will evolve into.
(Credit: NASA, ESA, Elizabeth Wheatley (STScI))
Key Takeaways
  • The Sun shines with a constant energy output of 400 septillion joules every second, making life as we know it possible on planet Earth.
  • But the Sun, despite its benefits, also emits flares, coronal mass ejections, and other types of space weather, with potentially catastrophic consequences for human civilization.
  • We’ve gotten away with being complacent about the seriousness of this threat so far, but that won’t last very long. Here’s what everyone should know about the threat of the Sun.

For life on Earth, there’s no more important source of energy than the Sun; without it, it’s doubtful that life would have arisen on Earth, and it certainly wouldn’t have evolved to give rise to the wild diversity of biological organisms seen today. But the Sun is more than just a constant source of heat and light; it also emits particles, and there’s a darker side to that activity: flares, coronal mass ejections, and the threats this space weather poses to living planets like our own.

It turns out that for technologically advanced civilizations like our own, the threats that arise from the Sun are far greater and more dangerous than at any time prior in Earth’s history, and despite the knowledge we have of what the Sun can do to the Earth, we’re woefully unprepared for the inevitable. Thankfully, there are not only people studying it, but many of them are also fighting and advocating for solutions and planetary protection, including Sierra Solter, a plasma physicist specializing in solar plasmas, who joins us on this edition of the Starts With A Bang podcast

Welcome to a glorious 2023, and may we learn the needed lessons for what must be done before we’re left with the sad alternative of simply picking up the pieces!


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