Conspiracy Theorists Falsely Claim a Solar Flare Will End the World on September 24

sun close up showing solar surface activity and corona
TikTok Spreads False Claim About the World EndingDrPixel - Getty Images
  • A TikTok conspiracy theory surrounds a misspoken world leader and solar flares.

  • The science behind solar flares doesn’t offer any reason for world-ending concerns.

  • Another reference about the supposedly world-ending event on September 24 in The Simpsons is flimsy at best.

Okay, we get that when you start talking about the sun experiencing explosions, it can get the less-informed a little riled up. But don’t fret, a solar flare is definitely not going to end the world on September 24, as TikTok conspiracy theorists have pushed.

Let’s start with what a solar flare is. As NASA describes it, a solar flare “is an intense burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots.” These flares are seen as bright areas on the sun and typically last for mere minutes. (In the image at the top of this story, you can see an example of a powerful solar flare from November 2003.)

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And now, what a solar flare isn’t: “Even at their worst,” NASA says, “the sun’s flares are not physically capable of destroying Earth.”

The latest conspiracy theory about a world-ending solar flare is pretty convoluted. In short, a German politician named Friedrich Merz gave a speech in February commenting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and meant to say that February 24 “will be remembered by all of us as a day which we will say, ‘I remember exactly where I was.’” He misspoke at the time and said September 24 instead of February 24, and now that video is making the rounds on TikTok with folks saying a solar flare is on the way.

It’s worth noting that there’s no evidence of a major solar flare on the way.

To muddy the waters even more, an episode of The Simpsons—wherein Homer prepares for the end of the world and talks about a huge explosion—helped conspiracy theorists further string together a nonsensical connection. The episode doesn’t even specifically mention September 24 anywhere, but it was episode No. 9 of season 24, which can be contrived to read September 24 if you’re really reaching. And since people love connecting The Simpsons to real-world predictions, the association got some traction on social media.

So, you’ve got an outdated TikTok video and a loosely tied episode of The Simpsons, but what you don’t have is ... science.

Solar flares can create issues, to be sure, but those largely remain in space. The magnetic energy-filled outbursts offer up electrical currents in space via electromagnetic radiation. These flares, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have five classes. The X-class is the most powerful, followed by the M-class, then the C-class, B-class, and A-class. The most powerful flares, X-class, generally occur about ten times per year and the most severe ones can hamper satellites and technology. They can also create some geomagnetic storms, but solar flares haven’t had an adverse impact on Earth.

Photo credit: NASA
Photo credit: NASA

Sure, the magnetic fields can create challenges for electrical grids at times, can hamper satellites, and cause radio blackouts on certain frequencies, but that doesn’t end the world. Even the most powerful of solar flares that do alter Earth’s magnetosphere generally just result in auroras appearing in the sky.

In summary: a world-ending solar flare only exists on TikTok.

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