Solar Power Broker

Solar Power Broker

Question about the sun and the movie “knowing”?

In the movie ‘Knowing,’ a computer shows the sun sending burning gasses out into space, gasses which hit the earth, and then keep moving outward in space. In the cg image, the gasses hit the sunny side of earth, but do not creep around the dark side too. If that actually could happen, would the sunny side get toasted only?

The problem in the question is the part: “If that actually could happen”

What the Sun does send out is a Coronal Mass Ejection, a cloud of charged particles. They shoot off in all directions and most of them miss us. Still, we do get hit often enough. We got hit twice in early August 2010.

The last times it affected life on Earth was NOT because of the “burning gasses which hit the Earth” (by the time the cloud gets here, it is not hot in terms of temperature).

A cloud of charged particles can push our magnetosphere a bit too far from Earth. When that happens, it snaps back into place in what we call a “reconnection event”. This event causes an electromagnetic pulse which is caught by very long conductors (like power lines). Depending on the strength and nature of this pulse, it can cause a power spike in the power lines.

In March 1989, such a pulse was caught by a power line over 1,000 miles long (1600 km) and the spike was interpreted, by the computers running the grid, as an emergency (like: lines falling into a lake). The computers then shut down that line, but the rest of the grid was unable to cope. Six million people were left without power for nine hours. Total number of deaths = 0.

In August 1989 (same Solar maximum cycle, different CME) the individual charged particles had more energy and got through the shielding around computer chips. They cause the crash of a computer system running a Stock Exchange. Brokers were left without minute-by-minute info on the value of their stocks. Total number of deaths = 0.

What the movie shows is an actual flare reaching all the way to Earth, which is completely impossible (they are a surface event on the Sun, they could not even reach to Mercury).

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