The following is an excerpt from STEPHEN SHANKLAND | June 14, 2018 | CNET.com |
One hundred fifty-nine years ago, our sun belched out a sea of charged particles aimed at Earth. It sped toward us at millions of miles per hour, walloping the planet hard enough to addle the world's telegraph systems and bring the northern lights as far south as Jamaica.
Damage from the solar storm, called the Carrington Event, was pretty limited — chiefly because the world didn't have a lot of very long wires that are susceptible to disruption. But that was then, and a massive solar storm will come our way again.
That's because the sun is constantly convulsing with titanic forces, sending megatons of feisty charged particles across the 93 million miles to Earth. Although our planet is shielded by a vast, invisible magnetic field, those charged particles can punch through. When they do, they can cause widespread disruption in today's continent-spanning electrical system. But not just the world's electrical grid. A massive wave of charged particle emissions can also cripple orbiting communications satellites and force planes to detour around radiation-bathed polar regions.
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