Experts warn that a solar storm of the size of one hundred and fifty years ago could plunge the world into chaos. Tony Spitz has the details.
It's happened before and it could happen again
Roughly 2,700 years ago, an unusually powerful solar storm swept past Earth, scientists announced in a new study. Though it has little to no impact on people in that long ago, pre-industrial and pre-technological world, such an event today would cause widespread power outages along with potentially disastrous communications and navigation failures.
The solar storm, which was in 660 BC, was about 10 times stronger than any known event in the past 70 years, study lead author Raimund Muscheler said.
A solar storm of that strength would be a "threat to modern society in terms of communication and navigation systems , scientists have found radioactive isotopes that have been reported to have been found in Greenland, and a very powerful solar storm 2,700 years ago
A handout picture made available by NASA's Solar Dyna The mics Observatory (SDO) on 21 April 2016 shows a dramatic display of a round solar filament bursting out of the sun, in space (Photo: NASA / SDO, EPA)
a snake occurred today, it could have had severe effects on our high-tech society, "said Muscheler, a geologist at Lund University in Sweden
Two examples of recent severe solar storms that caused extensive power outages took place in Quebec, Canada, in 1989 and Malmö, Sweden in 2003.
Solar storms are made of high-energy particles unleashed from the sun by explosions on the star's surface. These types of storms are part of what is known as space weather, when energy that blasts off the sun interacts with Earth's atmosphere and geomagnetic field. ] More: 27,000-year-old fossil reveals what life was like for a giant ground sloth, study says
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The only visible effect here on Earth is the aurora borealis, or northern lights, across Canada and the northern US
Scientists said this is the third known discovery of a massive solar storm in historical times. This indicates that while the storms are rare, they are a naturally recurring effect of solar activity.
"That's why we must increase society's protection against solar storms," Muscheler said. "Our research suggests that the risks are currently underestimated."
The study was published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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