A solar “superstorm” could knock out Earth’s communications satellites, cause dangerous power surges in the national grid and disrupt crucial navigation aids and aircraft avionics, a major report has found.
It is inevitable that an extreme solar storm – caused by the Sun ejecting billions of tonnes of highly-energetic matter travelling at a million miles an hour – will hit the Earth at some time in the near future, but it is Read more…
It was in January 1994 that two Canadian telecommunications satellites blanked out during a major sunburst while in geosynchronous orbit and communications were disrupted nationwide.
While recovery occurred after only a few hours on the first satellite, it took some six months and more than $70 million to recover the second satellite.
Then in January 2005, some 26 United Airlines flights had to be diverted during a space weather storm to non-polar routes – to avoid the prospect of high frequency radio blackouts.
Added were landings and takeoffs, flight time and other factors that elevated fuel consumption and costs. Each route change ended up costing more than $100,000.
Then in February 2011, there was a sun eruption experts described as the largest solar flare in four years. It caused interference in radio communications and global positioning system signals for aircraft traveling long-distances.
While it was a modest outburst, experts say it signaled the beginning of an upcoming Read more…
A powerful solar eruption is expected to blast a stream of charged particles toward Earth tomorrow (Jan. 24), as the strongest radiation storm since 2005 rages on the sun.
Early this morning (0359 GMT Jan. 23, which corresponds to late Sunday, Jan. 22 at 10:59 p.m. EST), NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught an extreme ultraviolet flash from a huge eruption on the sun , according to the skywatching website Spaceweather.com.
The solar flare spewed from sunspot 1402, a region of the sun that has become increasingly active lately. Several NASA satellites, including the Solar Dynamics Observatory, the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), and the Stereo spacecraft observed the massive sun storm.
A barrage of charged particles triggered by this morning’s solar flare is expected to hit Earth tomorrow at around Read more…
It can take a long time to clean up from natural disasters. New Orleans still had remnants of Katrina damage years after the storm barreled through. Hundreds of thousands of people are still homeless in Haiti, more than a year and a half after its earthquake. Areas of Japan may be off limits for years due to the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster at Fukushima.
But as bad as these events might be, they are at least limited geographically. But that probably won’t be true when it comes to a severe solar storm, say scientists in a new study in Space Weather. Before I go into that, though, let’s first review what I mean by Read more…
Some scientists believe bursts of solar activity cause natural disasters on our planet, but until now the Read more…
Senior space agency scientists believe that the super storm would hit like ‘a bolt of lightning’ and damage everything from emergency services’ systems, hospital equipment, banking systems and air traffic control devices, through to “everyday” items such as home computers, iPods and Sat Navs.
And unless precautions are taken, it could cause catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security.
“We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,” Dr Richard Fisher, the director of NASA’s Heliophysics division, said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
He, however, said that preparations were similar to those in a hurricane season, where authorities knew a problem was imminent but did not know how serious it would be.
“I think the issue is now that modern society is so dependant on Read more…
The intensity of solar storms is expected to peak in 2013 and may devastate critical infrastructure like satellite communications, navigation systems and electrical transmission equipment, a top scientist has warned. Kathryn Sullivan, assistant secretary of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said countries should prepare for “potentially devastating effects” from solar storms which are caused by massive explosions on the sun.
Solar storms, according to scientists, release particles that can temporarily disable or permanently destroy fragile computer circuits, the Daily Mail reported.
Dr Sullivan, a former NASA astronaut who in 1984 became the first woman to walk in space, told a UN weather conference in Geneva that “it is not a question of if, but really a matter of when a major solar event could hit our planet”. She is not the only expert to issue a warning about the threat posed by solar storms. In February, astronomers warned that mankind is now more vulnerable to such an event than at any time in history — and that the planet should prepare for a global Hurricane Katrina-style disaster.
A massive solar eruption, they said, would send waves of radiation and charged particles to Earth, damaging satellite systems used for synchronising computers, airline navigation and phone networks. If the storm is powerful enough it could even crash stock markets and cause power cuts that last weeks or months, experts told the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The chances of a disruption from space are getting stronger because the sun is entering the most active period of its 11 to 12-year natural cycle. The world got a taster of the sun’s explosive power in February when the strongest solar eruption in five years sent a torrent of charged plasma hurtling towards the world at 580 miles per second. The storm created spectacular aurorae and disrupted radio communications.
Space storms are not new. The first major solar flare was recorded by British astronomer Richard Carrington in 1859. Other solar geomagnetic storms have been observed in recent decades. According to NASA, one huge solar flare in 1972 cut off long-distance telephone communication in the mid-western state of Illinois. Another similar flare in 1989 ‘provoked geomagnetic storms that disrupted electric power transmission’ and caused blackouts across the Canadian province of Quebec, the US space agency said.