Solar Flares and You

Posted by on September 22, 2013 in Series-The Forgotten Food Group | 6 comments


An essay from the: The Forgotten Food Group Series

By Christina Carson

Our Amazing Sun

Far from this blue planet we call home, our sun holds its position like a great Mother overseeing her offspring. The mystery and magic of the whole cosmic affair does not elude even those whose job it is to explain how large bodies can appear to hang in alleged nothingness. Our sun is a sustainer of life on our planet, but she is as fierce as she is enigmatic. Occasionally, she ejects from her seething mass a brief eruption of high-energy radiation in the form of solar flares as well as the more intense coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These massive bursts of solar wind carrying the particles from these eruptions can travel to earth in 3-5 days and set up what we call electromagnetic storms. They affect us, indeed they do. Power outages, radio and GPS transmission interference and accelerated decay of low-orbiting satellites are evidence of their technological impact on human beings. Yet though these storms create a good bit of mischief, they also enhance one of the most surreal experiences found in the natural world.

When the sun begins flinging charged particles into space like a flamingo dancer throwing scarfs, those who live in the upper latitudes see the most dramatic light show on earth. The auroras at either pole fill the night sky with wavy curtains of neon, a cosmic whimsy of startling beauty. Who would imagine that the flaming winds of a molten sun would transmute themselves on earth into sheets of changing colors spread across the darkness, unfurling as if caught in a gentle breeze?


  Lake Guntersville Aurora

Lake Guntersville Aurora

It was October of 2002. We had just returned from picking up our folbot kayaks and were determined to be in them before the day’s end. Even though it was late when we arrived at the lakeside cabin we’d reserved for this moment, undaunted, we put them together and slipped them onto Lake Guntersville. It was well after 10:00 PM. To say it was dark out on the water would be an understatement of some magnitude. But that darkness caused us to notice a diffuse red glow in the northern sky. At first we thought it was a large fire’s glow, but as it grew in intensity, we thought perhaps a forest fire. Slowly it took a shape which struck a familiar chord in me. I yelled to Bert since I couldn’t see him, “Darlin’, that’s the aurora, all the way down here in Alabama, the Northern Lights… my god.” A flood of memories of my Canadian home—sweet, distant and wild—came to me, woven through with stories that filled them. The

  Auroras of the Far North

Auroras of the Far North

Northern Lights had again lit up my life.

Stop for a moment and consider: the caprice of our sun 93 million miles away, while perhaps darkening some part of the world, lit up ours in a show of boggling beauty. Two crazy people kayaking in the pitch dark see a sight they wouldn’t have been able to share otherwise. Is this not an amazing universe? Are we perhaps interconnected with the rest of the natural world to a degree we can hardly imagine? Were we to sense that interconnectedness more deeply, would we stop tripping over our disappointments and embrace more passionately this extraordinary opportunity called life on earth?

Remember: We need at least one serving daily of awe along with our other food groups to live a life of peace, wonder and well-being.

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  1. Love this Christina – your words are beautiful poetry reminding us of the glorious beauty of this place we call home.

    • Christina Carson

      It is such fun to have you to share this growing awareness we each have spent a lifetime attending to. Thank you, Beca.

  2. Fabulous, Christina. We had the opportunity to travel north and see those beautiful lights in 2003. Their graceful flow across the sky is a magic I’ll always remember. How awesome that they came to greet you in Alabama!

    • Christina Carson

      How cool. Not many who live south of the Mason-Dixon Line have ever seen them. What fun that you have. The very first time I saw them, I didn’t even know what Northern Lights were. I was walking to a bus stop in Edmonton rather late at night and they started. I literally stopped breathing but unfortunately kept walking, and the daze they put me in had me center the bus stop sign pole with my face. But as you can imagine – I didn’t care.

  3. Christina, thank you for the reminder of the beautiful, awe inspiring moments that come to all of us. Lovely writing.

    • Christina Carson

      And you too, Janet, who are right there to catch the spirit and the implications of what is written. To have three such is a large number in this game. Thanks.

Thoughtful comments are always welcome!


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