This solar storm almost KILLED all passengers on a Qantas plane; check terrifying TRUTH | Tech News

This solar storm almost KILLED all passengers on a Qantas plane; check terrifying TRUTH

In 2008, a menacing solar storm injured many passengers in a plane. It could have easily killed them all in a Qantas airliner.

| Updated on: Oct 18 2022, 13:40 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
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1/5 The Sun is the largest object in our solar system and is a 4.5 billion-year-old star – a hot glowing ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of the solar system. It is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from Earth, and without its energy, life as we know it could not exist here on our home planet. (Pixabay)
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2/5 The Sun’s volume would need 1.3 million Earths to fill it. Its gravity holds the solar system together, keeping everything from the biggest planets to the smallest bits of debris in orbit around it. The hottest part of the Sun is its core, where temperatures top 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). The Sun’s activity, from its powerful eruptions to the steady stream of charged particles it sends out, influences the nature of space throughout the solar system. (NASA)
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3/5 According to NASA, measuring a “day” on the Sun is complicated because of the way it rotates. It doesn't spin as a single, solid ball. This is because the Sun’s surface isn't solid like Earth's. Instead, the Sun is made of super-hot, electrically charged gas called plasma. This plasma rotates at different speeds on different parts of the Sun. At its equator, the Sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days. At its poles, the Sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days. (NASA)
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4/5 Above the Sun’s surface are its thin chromosphere and the huge corona (crown). This is where we see features such as solar prominences, flares, and coronal mass ejections. The latter two are giant explosions of energy and particles that can reach Earth. (Pixabay)
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5/5 The Sun doesn’t have moons, but eight planets orbit it, at least five dwarf planets, tens of thousands of asteroids, and perhaps three trillion comets and icy bodies. Also, several spacecraft are currently investigating the Sun including Parker Solar Probe, STEREO, Solar Orbiter, SOHO, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Hinode, IRIS, and Wind. (Pixabay)
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Science tells us that solar storms cannot really harm humans, but this one solar storm in 2008 injured many in a Qantas airliner and almost killed them all. (Pixabay)

The popular notion around solar storm is that it is dangerous for electronic devices, satellites, wireless communication systems like Internet and radio waves, but it does not pose a threat to humans. This essentially means that during a solar storm, the radiation reaching a human is not powerful enough to burn their skin or kill them. However, this absolutely does not mean a solar storm cannot kill us indirectly. With our reliance on technology, solar storms can affect us in ways previously unimaginable. Take the example of this 2008 solar storm event which almost killed the 303 passengers and 10 crew members aboard a Qantas plane. Sounds unbelievable? Read on.

Solar storm injures passengers aboard Qantas airliner

According to a BBC report, a strange event happened in 2008. A Qantas airliner called Flight 72 was flying over Western Australia. However, mid flight, the airplane dropped about 300 feet all of a sudden. The drop was a nose-dive meaning the people inside the airbus were disbalanced, fell out of their seats and hit objects left and right at a high speed. Many were injured and had broken their bones. “One child who was wearing a seatbelt was jolted so badly that they suffered injuries to their abdomen,” reported BBC. Thankfully, shortly after the airliner dropped, the pilot was able to control the and stabilize it, avoiding a potential crash.

An investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau was started to find out the reason behind the pilot losing control of the flight. After eliminating issues such as the sobriety of the pilots and following of the procedure leading to the take-off, the investigation focused on the internal system of the flight. It was found out that “prior to the erratic behavior of the plane, erroneous computer data in the on-board systems had misrepresented the angle at which the aircraft was flying. This prompted the two automated nose-dives,” claim the report.

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The investigation report finally concluded, “there was insufficient evidence available to determine whether [an ionising particle altering computer data] could have triggered the failure mode”. In simple words, the report stated that while there was a possibility that a solar storm could have corrupted the computer data of the plane, there was not enough evidence to say so conclusively. At the same time, the report admitted that any other alternative was entirely unlikely. So, a solar storm can kill humans, albeit in an indirect way through a tech outage or corrupt data.

Because of the understanding of solar storms, we know that it can definitely mess up electronic devices including computers on a flight.

Most notably of all, this is why today, flights are always delayed during a solar storm event.

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First Published Date: 18 Oct, 13:21 IST