Solar Flares Hit Earth

Photo courtesy of NASA
Astronomers say every eleven years or so the sun goes through a very active period full of eruptions.  We are now in the midst of that period and this week there's been a lot of activity. Bill Stamps spoke with a Houston astronomer who explains why the average person should be concerned.

Scientists and astronomers say there was a huge, violent eruption on the sun on Tuesday that sent radioactive particles hurtling into space, traveling at great speeds right towards Earth.

Doctor Carolyn Sumners, an astronomer at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, says that dangerous cloud of particles hit the Earth this morning.

"Thank goodness though, it didn't happen in a way that causes damage. All the satellites seemed to have survived just fine. The International Space Station didn't panic. The only people who would have been worried would have been astronauts beyond the Earth's magnetic field and there aren't any."

In 1989, a strong solar storm knocked out the power grid in Quebec, causing six million people to lose power.  Observers wondered if a similar problem could happen with this latest solar storm, but so far no major problems have been reported.

 Doctor Sumners says the violent solar flares are also one of the reasons some are predicting 2012 to be the end of the world.  Here's a clip from the movie 2012 to be released later this year.

*audio clip from the movie 2012*

There are all sorts of theories for the world coming to an end this year, but as for the solar flare theory, Doctor Sumners says scientists already know that's not going to happen.

"People were predicting it would be very violent and we'd have lots of solar activity, and things could go very, very wrong. Well, what's happened is the sun is less active than expected and sun spot maximum will not be achieved until 2013, so that part of the 2012 apocalypse story did not pan out at all."

She says they've studied sun activity for hundreds of years and they know the worst of this latest round of flares won't happen until next year. So if you're one of those who believes in this theory, Dr. Sumners says  your doomsday prediction will be off by at least a year.