World

What if the Sun Burped?

Could our super tech culture actually come to a grinding halt?

March 8, 2021 by

On September 1, 1859, a massive solar blast left the sun headed straight for earth. Now known as the Carrington Event, the blast hit the earth’s magnetosphere and triggered a massive geomagnetic storm. Intense northern lights were seen as far south as the Caribbean and Hawaii. With few electrical devices to impact, this cosmic tsunami passed without much adverse effect beyond damaging a few relatively recent telegraph wires. In May 1921 another solar superstorm occurred, this time melting railroad signal lines and starting fires. As recently as 1989, the world experienced yet another solar blast that caused rolling blackouts in Quebec, affecting millions, and interrupted intelligence systems. And in 2012 earth narrowly missed a solar blast that would have been more powerful than the Carrington Event.

Today we call these periodic solar outbursts coronal mass ejections (CME). A CME of the Carrington Event magnitude would cause mass power outages and torch GPS satellite systems. It would quite literally stop our high-tech culture in its tracks.

For most of us, the sun is the life-giving energized center of our solar system. Visible light travels ninety-three million miles to reach us and warm us, ultimately sustaining life on planet Earth. Early in Genesis, God said “Let there be light!” And it was good!

solar flairArtwork by Alida Clement.

Coronal mass ejections are mammoth gas releases from deep in the sun’s core that can pack the punch of ten billion atomic bombs. These massive magnetically charged “belches” fling billions of tons of superheated plasma, at up to seven million miles per hour, out into the cosmos. Just occasionally, these massive solar outbursts align with our small orbiting planet Earth.

Recently an article caught my eye, predicting the possibility of a double blast from the sun which, timed correctly, would create a “perfect storm” scenario doubling the magnitude of the Carrington Event. We would have little warning as the first assault would arrive in minutes and the main buffet to our magnetosphere would occur over the next two to three days. On the reassuring side we humans (except those in high altitude airplanes) would not experience hazardous radiation, but our technological civilization stands high risk of collapse. Today in 2021, a CME “perfect storm” could cause satellites to tumble out of orbit, transformers and power grids to melt down, GPS systems to black out, and yes, our precious iPhones and communication devices to go silent. Our technological “advances” have put us exponentially at risk. This is not to predict Doomsday, but it is a real possibility and the ramifications would be huge.

Bob Berman, a renowned astronomy expert and good friend of the Mount Academy where I teach, has also written a thorough exposé on the subject. The answer is yes, a solar storm could shut our planet down. Yet, as I always reassure my students, there is still a good God over all of us. We do not need to fear.

Natural disasters are possible. A large inbound meteorite with zero warning could ruin our day. Yellowstone (an old and immense simmering volcanic caldera) could blow, and statistically it is long overdue. Climate-driven hurricanes have reached record magnitudes and sustained wind speeds now have been recorded over 215 miles per hour. Moreover, God could allow the sun to “burp” in our direction.

Even insurance companies recognize “acts of God”: disaster events resulting from natural causes without human intervention, such as lightening and earthquakes that strike “out of the blue.” I believe if God spoke serious language to our world, all humankind by necessity would have to pay attention. I would hope this would stop our selfish drive and pull us together across the world. Would a solar blast be telling us all to “slow down and live”?

The other day in my physics class, I lamented the “sky clutter” started with the launch of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite “internet constellation.” One day soon, it will be difficult to see the real stars and constellations like the Big Dipper. One student argued, “But Mr. Meier, the world needs 5G to survive.” Really? Humankind has managed just fine till now without it! Think what an avalanche of technology these past decades have brought and with it, the mad rush in which we all are a part. What is next, 6G, 10G, 20G? It is not all good.

This past week a brilliant neurosurgeon who has worked for Doctors Without Borders spoke via Zoom to our Academy students. He told how the pandemic has in many ways humbled the medical world and brought us to our knees. Humankind always loves to be in control. This doctor’s urgent message to the students was simple, “Love and serve everyone you meet as though they were your parents, your siblings, your family.” A new take on the Golden Rule.

I do believe God’s kingdom is coming nearer each day, when he will establish a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21). I believe that on that day we will all be humbled, and the Bible says that every knee will bow (Rom. 14:11).

I still love to look out into the stars and think of light and light-years, time and space, gravitational forces in perfect balance and far beyond our control. It makes me feel very small and helps me grasp the greatness of God. The sun rises every morning and sets every evening in its life-giving cycle. This is still God’s creation and he is still in control. It is good that way, and we certainly do not need to worry.

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Mario Meier

Mario Meier

Mario Meier and his wife, Robin, are parents of four grown children, and grandparents of three.

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