A July 2012 solar flare as photographed by NASA (Photo : NASA)
Scientists are worried about the sun. Not how the sun is doing, or whether it's eating enough, but rather how it might impact the Earth in the coming years. In a report released by the National Research Council, scientists emphasize the need to advance our understanding of the sun in order to be better prepared against any nasty solar weather.
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"We really have a feeling that the next decade is one that really moves us from a decade focusing to understand drivers of space weather to one that is focused on the responses of that," said University of Michigan professor Thomas Zurbuchen.
The 454-page report is the effort of 85 scientists and what they believe the most important scientific goals are for the next decade. A large part of that is understanding the relationship between the Earth and the sun.
"The significant achievements of the past decade set the stage for transformative advances in solar and space physics," said Daniel Baker, chair of the committee that wrote the report. "In turn, these advances will support critical national needs for information that can be used to anticipate, recognize, and mitigate space weather effects that are adverse to human life and the technological systems society depends upon."
Solar activity is expected to peak as the sun reaches solar maximum around 2013. The summer of 2012 has already given us a couple X-class solar flares. These flares are the strongest the sun can emit, and they have the ability to affect electronics, satellites, and astronauts in space.
As most of the world has its eyes fixated in the other direction at Mars, there is a real possibility that as we become more digital and rely on technology more and more, the solar weather patterns of the sun will be of increasing concern as these scientists stated. After all, you wouldn't want your iPhone to blackout in the middle of Angry Birds would you?
Witness the power of a solar flare erupting from the sun's surface: