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How Does the Sun Affect the Earth? by Robert Lamb
Saturday, May 15th 2010, 2:30 AM EDT
Co2sceptic (Site Admin)
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The Earth's magnetic field continually battles the solar wind. (NASA/Steele Hill)

The 1974 horror film "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" kicks off with brilliant footage of solar flares and descends into violence and mayhem. While there's no evidence to suggest an actual link between increased solar activity and human violence, it can result in a great deal of earthbound devastation -- from city-destroying hurricanes to massive energy failures.

Two types of solar phenomena can affect the Earth in such a drastic manner: solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Scientists think that both types of events are caused by changes in the sun's magnetic field.

ANALYSIS: A solar storm could be responsible for some serious cable television interference after knocking out one of our vulnerable communications satellites in April.

In the case of solar flares, the magnetic field triggers a powerful explosion in the sun's atmosphere. This explosion accelerates subatomic particles near the speed of light, producing a broad range of electromagnetic radiation.

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) on the other hand, involve the ejection of actual material from the sun's corona. Billions of tons of electrified gas fly away from the sun at incredibly high speeds.

"Those are the two kinds of space weather that have a direct effect on Earth," explains NASA solar astrophysicist C. Alex Young.

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