Can a solar storm spark global Internet breakdown on Earth? The facts will shock and awe you | Tech News

Can a solar storm spark global Internet breakdown on Earth? The facts about geomagnetic storms will shock you

The fearful truth is that a solar storm can actually destroy the Internet on Earth and not just for a few hours or days, but for months, sparking chaos and deaths across the world.

By: HT TECH
| Updated on: Jun 27 2023, 20:41 IST
Solar storm
Solar Storm may cause global internet breakdown! (NASA)
Solar storm
Solar Storm may cause global internet breakdown! (NASA)

The fearful truth is that a solar storm can actually destroy the Internet on Earth and not just for a few hours or days, but for months, sparking chaos and deaths across the world. A solar storm refers to atmospheric disturbances experienced on Earth that originate from the sun, primarily caused by solar flares. These are shot from the Sun and strike anythhing that gets in their path including the Earth. It s a powerful source of energy which, when it hits the Earth's atmosphere, sparks a geomagnetic storm here. While the fascinating result is an aurora, the fearful thing that can happen is that the magnetic storm can wipe out satellites and other delicate instruments in undersea cables that carry the world's internet, said Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi at the University of California Irvine. The submarine cables are in more danger than land cables. She called these extreme solar storm as 'solar superstorms'. And if these undersea cables are disrupted, it will take months to restore them, leaving everyoone without Internet.

During these storms, a stream of electromagnetic energy is directed towards Earth, resulting in the mesmerizing phenomenon known as the aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere and aurora Australis in southern hemisphere.

According to NASA, the Sun follows an 11-year cycle in which it grows increasingly volatile around the middle of this period and then gradually subsides. As the volatility increases, the solar storms get worse and more powerful. Although their frequency and intensity can vary, the really strong geomagnetic storms can lead to disruptions in satellite operations, radio transmissions, and internet connectivity.

While we narrowly avoided a major solar storm in 2012, the last significant event of this scale occurred in 1859, called the Carrington event. At that time electricity and electronic infrastructure was in its infancy and yet, even then the storm was geomagnetic storm was so powerful that it caused telegraph lines to give electric shocks to operators and even spontaneously catch fire.=

Notably, this intense storm caused spectacular auroras to be visible across the globe and not just at the poles.

If a solar storm of similar magnitude were to strike today, it could inflict severe damage on the electronics of orbiting satellites, resulting in disruptions to crucial navigation and communication systems, including the GPS time synchronization relied upon by the internet. Additionally, a surge of electromagnetic radiation in the atmosphere would induce massive currents in our power grids, posing a risk of electrical transformer failure and triggering prolonged power grid outages.

A global internet outage too would happen. The concern over a potential internet apocalypse has revived the earlier speculation from 2021 when computer scientist Abdu issued a research report about the potential occurrence of a catastrophic solar storm within the next decade.

NASA has a permanent watch on the Sun to warn about the possibility of such a solar storm brewing on the Sun. This it is does through many of its technological assets including the Parker Solar Probe (PSP) - the spacecraft has been positioned as close to the Sun as possible. This mission has provided valuable insights into the Sun's atmosphere.

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First Published Date: 27 Jun, 20:38 IST
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