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Ways the world could end: NASA edition

By: Katherine Butler on Feb. 16, 2012, 5:56 p.m.
solar storm

Photo: NASA/JPL-CalTech

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Solar storm: Time to get out the sunblock

Our sun is a powerful star, regularly emitting coronal mass ejections (CMEs), or blasts of magnetic plasma. The strongest CMEs can have a profound effect on Earth, disrupting satellite communications, electronics and more by sending large doses of electromagnetic radiation and energetic particles our way. So will a CME ever be strong enough to destroy the Earth? NASA says no. Solar storms have a fairly regular cycle, peaking about every 11 years. In fact, the sun is gearing up to peak right now, with the next solar maximum expected to appear in 2013. But while they can cause significant problems, even the biggest solar flares are not powerful enough to destroy our planet.