Solar storms can knock out your phone! Know what NASA said | Tech News

Solar storms can knock out your phone! Know what NASA said

Solar storms can be powerful enough to render even a phone useless. NASA highlights the dangers of unpredictable space weather.

| Updated on: Aug 22 2022, 10:23 IST
geomagnetic storm
NASA highlights the scary truth of space weather. Solar storms are capable of bringing even the most advanced phone to a halt. (Pixabay)

What can happen when really powerful solar storms hit the Earth? How will our lives be affected? The answer to that question is not simple. Fortunately, we have not had to face any major solar storm event in recent years, but as the Sun wakes up and goes into a new cycle of super-activity, the solar maximum phase, things may change. According to NASA, a powerful solar storm can have adverse effects on mobile connectivity, GPS system and internet services. Yes, even the technologically advanced smartphones will not survive the damage caused to the communications infrastructure by solar storms. So, in case of a severe solar flare activity on the Sun, what should we expect and what exactly can we do about it?

The concerns regarding solar storms have increased in the last few months after multiple solar flares have gone off on the surface of the Sun. NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) even managed to capture the image of a particularly strong solar flare recently, which could have been a frightening affair had it made its way towards the Earth. But thankfully, it occurred at the far side of the Sun and the Earth was spared the damage. But in the game of the solar Russian roulette, it is a matter of when and not if. So what should we expect?

Solar storms can bring down phones

“In an increasingly technological world, where almost everyone relies on cellphones, and GPS controls not just your in-car map system, but also airplane navigation and the extremely accurate clocks that govern financial transactions, space weather is a serious matter,” NASA said in a post. And these are the major areas of concern. Smartphones will lose connectivity and, will not be able to access the internet and its GPS system will come to a halt in case of a severe solar storm. The reasons behind that include satellites getting knocked out in space due to the solar storm as well as undersea cables meant for communications getting damaged. While the cables themselves are not affected, the other supporting infrastructure around them is damaged and makes the whole system unworkable. According to some analysts, it may take months to restore these links. .

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Navigation systems of the world that help airplanes and ships find their path and avoid collisions with one another are also at a risk. After a massive geomagnetic storm hits Earth, any flights in the air or ships in the middle of the ocean will lose their navigation capabilities and will be on their own for hours.

In the digital age, network connectivity has made almost all things automated and a solar storm can be destructive enough to instantly push us back to the dark ages.

And we are still just scratching the surface of the likely impact. In the past a moderately strong solar storms have caused power grid failure. So, in case that happens all major industries, hospitals, emergency services among others will instantly go down. This will further lead to chaos and harm to life.

It is true that a solar storm cannot directly affect humans though. But with our growing reliance on satellites, internet and electricity, it definitely creates a lot of potential damage opportunities to indirectly harm us. And what can we do to protect ourselves? Not much at present, sadly. Until better technology can protect the satellites and power grids from solar radiation and strong electromagnetic fields, the Earth does not have a solid defense mechanism, except its own atmosphere which absorbs most of the energy solar storms pack in themselves. But, scientists have gotten better at observing and predicting solar storms over the years. In case of a threatening solar storm, the best course of action would be to turn off the power grids ahead of time and minimize the damage. It's still early days but scientists and governments are recognizing the concern and working towards a feasible solution.

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First Published Date: 03 Mar, 12:01 IST