Behold the sun's corona.

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Solar Flare for the Dramatic

Solar flares can and do present a problem for the wired world of the 21st century. After all, we depend on a network of satellites in the sky and a largely outdated electrical grid on the ground. Solar storms can disrupt those satellites, and a massive burst of solar wind called a coronal mass ejection (CME) can cause computer glitches. A solar superstorm, however, could hit the planet with enough energy to overload power grids and wipe out electrical systems in many areas.

Where does 2012 feature into all of this? Well, some apocalypse literature urges that on or around Dec. 21, 2012, the sun will reach the peak of an 11-year cycle known as solar maximum. Then it's solar superstorm time. Of course, NASA solar astronomers actually think the maximum might not occur until May 2013 [source: NASA]. And while such a superstorm could very well cause trillions of dollars of damage to the electrical grid, it wouldn't wipe out life as we know it -- not by a long shot.

How to Prepare: How do you prepare for a lengthy power outage? FEMA suggests you stock your emergency supply kit with matches in a waterproof container; a portable, battery-powered radio or television; a flashlight and extra batteries for everything.

Up next, prepare for a major change in thinking.