What if a catastrophic solar storm hit the Earth?

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Ricky Joseph

Between late August and early September 1859 a gigantic solar storm hit the Earth. Solar storms carry plasma, that is, extremely charged particles. In those explosions, the Sun sent into space energy equivalent to an incredible 10 billion atomic bombs.

On September 1, 1859, amateur astronomer Richard Carrington was observing sunspots. As he describes it in a report, two intensely bright spots appeared. At the time, he thought it was a defect in his telescope. But the next day he discovered what it was.

These storms occur with the emission of plus-size material during solar flares and coronal mass ejections. Disturbances in the Sun's magnetic field spew these charged particles. When the particles interact with attached electrical and electronic equipment, they burn them up.

As a result, electrical and telegraph networks have burned out and even caught fire. People have seen auroras even from tropical countries. And that's bad news. The Earth's magnetic field bars the solar winds. That's why auroras occur at the poles - where particles from the Sun enter the magnetic field and interact with the atmosphere.

The telegraph revolutionized communication, but the world had not yet abandoned postal networks. Likewise, electricity had applications, but it was not as vital as it is today.


Effects of a solar storm

So if we suffered such an "attack" today, would there be an apocalypse on Earth? NASA funded a study in 2009 that indicated that a solar storm like the one in 1859 today would cause $1 to $2 trillion in damage in the U.S. alone. Recovery of infrastructure and the economy would take more than a decade.

There wouldn't be complete damage to everything, of course. But a lot of equipment would "go to pot. In 1859, millions of people in the province of Quebec, Canada, were without electricity for several hours

But most affected would be the people and equipment in space. Satellites hit by such a large storm would certainly be damaged, as would equipment on the International Space Station. The astronauts would only have a few minutes to shelter in the spacecraft docked to the station. These spacecraft can withstand the immense heat of re-entry into the atmosphere, and would protect them from largeIf they do not protect themselves in time, the probability of developing cancer is enormous.

On Earth, most of the x-rays would probably be blocked by the magnetosphere (magnetic field) and the planet's atmosphere. Thus, we would not receive lethal doses of radiation. There is nothing to indicate, for example, a considerable increase in the incidence of cancer caused by the 1859 solar storm.

Maybe the only cool part would be the possibility of seeing auroras from Brazil.

How to prevent us?

Well, basically we're at the mercy of space. If a solar storm will leave us back in the Dark Ages, there's little to be done. If a giant apocalypse asteroid is approaching, there's even less to be done.

Satellites and astronauts are even more exposed than Earth (NASA).

All we can do is study the Sun to try to predict solar storms. One of the ways out that NASA proposes is for the concession companies to prepare the electrical grids. When a storm is detected, the companies should shut down all the electrical grids in a matter of minutes and thus minimize the damage.

In 2003, large solar storms hit the Earth. People called them Halloween Storms because of the time they arrived. For two weeks, wireless communications suffered interference or were even made impossible. At that time, Sweden faced frequent power outages. In addition, the storm damaged several satellites.

In 2001 the biggest storm ever recorded in history occurred, even stronger than in 1859. Luckily it did not hit the Earth.

With information from IFL Science , Business Insider e NASA .

Ricky Joseph is a seeker of knowledge. He firmly believes that through understanding the world around us, we can work to better ourselves and our society as a whole. As such, he has made it his life's mission to learn as much as he can about the world and its inhabitants. Joseph has worked in many different fields, all with the aim of furthering his knowledge. He has been a teacher, a soldier, and a businessman - but his true passion lies in research. He currently works as a research scientist for a major pharmaceutical company, where he is dedicated to finding new treatments for diseases that have long been considered incurable. Through diligence and hard work, Ricky Joseph has become one of the foremost experts on pharmacology and medicinal chemistry in the world. His name is known by scientists everywhere, and his work continues to improve the lives of millions.