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This Day in Science Fiction History: 19 October

Fictional Entry—Monday, October 19, 2009

Massive firestorm destroys New York City.
New York City in flames (© Summit Entertainment 2009)

Solar flares and coronal mass ejections have taken place throughout the history of our star, Sol. They were first recorded by Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson in 1859. The flares impact with the Van Allen belts, causing increased ionization of the upper atmosphere (ionosphere) and often increase the duration and intensity of the aurora borealis (northern lights) and aurora australis (southern lights).

Coronal mass ejections (CME) are when a portion of Sol’s magnetic field and plasma mass are blown away from the heliosphere. Though it is rare for a CME to impact the Earth, there have been several recorded cases, as well as geologic and paleologic evidence found. Both flares and CMEs are stopped by the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field.

Other stars have shown what scientists term superflares. These solar activities are up to ten thousand times stronger than typical solar flares. There is no evidence on Earth that Sol has ever encountered a superflare.

In mid October of 2009, the MIT observatory began tracking an increase in solar activity. During a solar maximum, the number of CMEs is about five per day. The observatory was tracking a steady increase in CMEs. They had recorded seven the day before, and by noon the number was already over fifteen. Observations had also provided data that a solar flare significantly larger than ever recorded was likely to occur.

On the morning of 19 October, the GOES solar observation satellite captured images of CME larger than ever recorded. This CME was plotted on a collision course with Earth. Two hours later, the GOES showed rapidly increasing soft x-rays. These rapidly passed the expected values for even a heavy X class event. Half an hour later the satellite failed. Scientists theorized the loss was do to x-ray and gamma radiation damage to the vehicle. The final determination was that Sol was experiencing a superflare.

The public was warned to stay indoors and if possible, seek shelter underground. The CME and superflare impacted Earth at roughly the same time. The force of the solar particles and plasma stripped the upper atmosphere from the planet. It also rapidly heated the lower atmosphere to over five hundred degrees Fahrenheit. This led to the vaporization of all organic matter, hurricane force heated winds, and the boiling of the seas. Life on Earth was destroyed.



Summit Entertainment


This Day in Science Fiction History examines notable events, real and fictional, concerning fantasy and science fiction in various media.


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