Sun's solar activity to peak in 2 years, could cause "Internet Apocalypse" | Tech News

Sun's solar activity to peak in 2 years, could cause "Internet Apocalypse"

Prepare for possible internet disruptions as the Sun's upcoming solar maximum could cause powerful storms.

| Updated on: Jul 13 2023, 09:30 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
Solar storm
1/5 Sun is a source of energy and a lot of activities keep on happening on the fireball. But can Earth be impacted by solar activities? Before we tell you that, it is important to know what solar activity is? According to NASA, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles are all forms of solar activity. All solar activity is driven by the solar magnetic field. (NASA)
Solar storm
2/5 Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth. Because flares are made of photons, they travel out directly from the flare site, so if we can see the flare, we can be impacted by it. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
3/5 Coronal mass ejections, also called CMEs, are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction, plowing right through the solar wind. Only when the cloud is aimed at Earth will the CME hit Earth and therefore cause impacts. (NASA)
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4/5 High-speed solar wind streams come from areas on the sun known as coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the sun and usually, only when they are closer to the solar equator, do the winds they produce impact Earth. (NASA)
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5/5 Solar energetic particles are high-energy charged particles, primarily thought to be released by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through the solar wind, high velocity solar energetic particles can be produced and because they are charged, they must follow the magnetic field lines that pervade the space between the Sun and the Earth. Therefore, only the charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect the Earth will result in impacts. (NASA)
Solar storm
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Sun's solar storms threaten internet connectivity, expert expresses concern. (Pixabay)

Experts are talking about the Sun's solar cycles and how they can create powerful solar storms that might disrupt communications on Earth. The Washington Post recently reported that in 2025, the Sun will enter a phase called "solar maximum," which is a period of increased activity. Unfortunately, our modern digital world might not be ready for it. This news has sparked interest on social media, with some even calling it the "internet apocalypse." However, it's important to note that NASA, the American space agency, hasn't confirmed this possibility or commented on it.

Historical examples of Solar Storm disruptions

Despite the lack of official statements, many individuals are wondering what would happen if the internet were to be severely affected. Is this concern just hype? According to the Post, these worries are not completely unfounded. In the past, powerful solar storms have caused significant disruptions. For example, in 1859, the Carrington Event led to sparks in telegraph lines and even electrocuted operators. Additionally, in 1989, a solar storm caused a major power outage in Quebec that lasted for several hours.

The Post interviewed Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi, a computer science professor at the University of California, Irvine, who discussed the potential impact of a severe solar storm on our infrastructure. She pointed out that we've never experienced an extreme case event like this, so we don't know how our systems would respond. In fact, our current testing methods don't even include scenarios of this magnitude. Jyothi's research paper, titled 'Solar Superstorms: Planning for an Internet Apocalypse,' helped popularize the term.

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Experts warn of infrastructure vulnerabilities and potential economic losses

According to Jyothi, a severe solar storm could disrupt large-scale infrastructure, such as undersea communication cables, leading to interruptions in long-distance connectivity. The Post mentioned that these outages could last for months. The economic consequences would be significant, with an estimated loss of over $11 billion for just one day of lost connectivity in the United States.

On July 4, while the US was celebrating Independence Day, the Sun showcased its some fireworks. Space weather physicist Tamitha Skov shared a video captured by NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), showing solar storms known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

In short, It's important to stay informed about potential disruptions caused by solar activity, but it's equally important not to spread misinformation or unsubstantiated warnings. Scientists and experts are studying this topic to better understand the risks and prepare our infrastructure for any potential challenges ahead.

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First Published Date: 13 Jul, 08:53 IST