ELi5: What is causing these recent burst of solar flares and should we be worried?


Lately I’ve been seeing articles and reports of solar flares from the Sun which have been occuring a lot (I think 7 happened in 2023 alone so far) and I do not recall this high a frequency in recent years (I may be mistaken or they weren’t reported as such). But do we know what is possibly causing these and what do we expect the overall impact to be, other than electronic blackouts and satellite communication failures etc?

In: 0

The sun has a roughly 11 year long cycle where it varies between high and low activity.

2023 is a peak year in that cycle. (With the last peak being around 2011/2012)

While I cant speculative on what will happen in the future. This has been happening for decades (possibly all of human history?) And we have been fine. So there isn’t anything unusual or unexpected about what’s happening.

What you’re also seeing is partly contributed to more reporting as humans have better detection and communication now than 10, 20, and 100 years ago about such events.


The sun goes through cycles of increased or diminished activity. We’re on the active end of a cycle right now.

It’s not a *big* problem unless the Earth happens to be directly in the path of a significant flare or coronal mass ejection. In that case, the stream of highly charged particles hitting us could cause fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field (a geomagnetic storm), which could be really problematic for things like the power grid, and in extreme cases, could theoretically fry anything with a circuit board.

See, because earth has a solid nickel-iron core, with a fluid mantle circulating around it, it’s basically a giant electromagnet. That magnetic field deflects charged particles from the solar wind, which protects us from a lot of radiation and helps prevent the atmosphere being stripped away (like it has been on Mars). When it gets hit too hard, it kind of wobbles, or flexes.

There was, for example, a [massive solar storm in 2012](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/July_2012_solar_storm) (during the last active cycle), which just barely missed us (by about 9 days). If it had occurred at a different time, it could have done massive damage to electrical infrastructure on a global scale.

Read up on the [Carrington Event](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrington_Event), a solar storm that hit us in the late 1800s, when the most advanced tech we had to worry about was telegraph lines.