Sun storm to hit with ‘force of 100m bombs’
AFTER 10 years of comparative slumber, the sun is waking up - and it’s got astronomers on full alert.
This week several US media outlets reported that NASA was warning the massive flare that caused spectacular light shows on Earth earlier this month was just a precursor to a massive solar storm building that had the potential to wipe out the entire planet’s power grid.
NASA has since rebutted those reports, saying it could come “100 years away or just 100 days”, but an Australian astronomer says the space community is betting on the sooner scenario rather than the latter.
Despite its rebuttal, NASA’s been watching out for this storm since 2006 and reports from the US this week claim the storms could hit on that most Hollywood of disaster dates - 2012.
Similar storms back in 1859 and 1921 caused worldwide chaos, wiping out telegraph wires on a massive scale.
The 2012 storm has the potential to be even more disruptive.
“The general consensus among general astronomers (and certainly solar astronomers) is that this coming Solar maximum (2012 but possibly later into 2013) will be the most violent in 100 years,” astronomy lecturer and columnist Dave Reneke said.
“A bold statement and one taken seriously by those it will affect most, namely airline companies, communications companies and anyone working with modern GPS systems.
“They can even trip circuit breakers and knock out orbiting satellites, as has already been done this year.”
Regardless, the point astronomers are making is it doesn’t matter if the next Solar Max isn’t the worst in history, or even as bad as the 1859 storms.
It’s the fact that there hasn’t been one since the mid-80s. Commodore had just launched the Amiga and the only digital storm making the news was Tetris.
No one really knows what effect the 2012-2013 Solar Max will have on today’s digital-reliant society.