No need to panic over solar flare
Cape Town - South Africans have flooded social networks after rumours that an approaching solar flare was deadly.
However, the coronal mass ejection is one of three components of the solar activity and is not fatal, an expert has said.
"If you were going to die [from a solar flare] you would have died yesterday [Monday] because the explosion on the sun happened yesterday morning," Kobus Olckers, space weather officer at the Ises Regional Space Weather Warning Centre in Hermanus told News24.
"If we get a coronal mass ejection, the first things that reach Earth are the X-rays; the ultraviolet rays. They take eight minutes to get from the sun to the Earth.
This radiation could affect humans, but it is not possible for charged particles to do so. Mass particles take longer to reach Earth, Olckers added.
Because these charged particles could not cross a magnetic field line, we would be safe as long as the Earth had a magnetic field.
"That's why we're still alive on Earth because we've got a magnetic shield around the Earth," Olckers said.
There is no reason to panic because of fears of a "cosmic death ray" from the sun because the ultraviolet peak has already subsided.
"If anything could happen to a human, it would have happened yesterday. The ultraviolet peak has come and gone - it happened yesterday," Olckers said.
Listen to the full interview here:
Kobus Olckers by News24
The sun goes through a regular period of increased solar activity which began about a year ago and is scheduled to peak at the end on 2012 or early 2013.
"We've been in a period of [increased] solar activity for about a year-and-a-half now and it's getting worse as we reach the solar maximum which we guess is going to be late this year or early next year," said Olckers.
Olckers, who works mainly indoors, was quick to poke a fun at people who had the time to spend a leisurely day out in the sun.
"Anybody who was on the beach yesterday will find they have a bit of an extra tan on. If they came home red like lobsters last night, it serves them right because I'm used to working," Olckers said.
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