Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Solar storms could cripple modern life

Radioactive particles from huge solar storm found in Greenland Evidence of Enormous, 2600-Year-Old Solar Storm Found in Greenland
Doris Mccormick | 15 March, 2019, 12:30

Solar storms are made up of high-energy particles unleashed from the sun by explosions on the star's surface. Such blasts of plasma and electromagnetic radiation from the Sun have the potential to seriously impact life on Earth, so it's important for us to understand them as much as we can.

According to the researchers, it is the third known case of such a massive solar storm hitting Earth in historical times.

The team write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: "A solar proton event of such magnitude occurring in modern times could result in severe disruption of satellite-based technologies, high frequency radio communication and space-based navigation systems".

"This was a high level of particle radiation, ten times more than has been observed in the last 70 years", Raimund Muscheler, of Lund University in Sweden, said. "If..." "That's why we must increase society's protection against solar storms".

Researchers found radioactive elements buried beneath almost half a kilometre of ice in Greenland, which shows an "enormous" solar storm battered the planet in 660 BC.

"There are high-energy solar energetic particle events, or solar proton events", Muscheler told Paul Rincon at BBC News. "These produce the geomagnetic storms".

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This finding should motivate us to review the possibility that a similar event will take place sooner or later - and we should prepare. The material appears to be the radioactive remnants of a solar storm that battered the atmosphere.

Now, new research shows that we've underestimated the hazards posed by solar storms - the authors report that we've underestimated just how powerful they can become.

Today that extra radiation would be potentially unsafe for astronauts on the ISS and passengers flying on planes at high altitude, besides threatening a lot of the modern technology we've come to rely on.

Further research using both ice-cores and growth rings in old trees confirmed two other massive solar storms that struck the Earth in 775 and 994 AD. In the meantime, we'd be wise to develop systems and equipment that aren't going to come crashing down if the event of 660 BCE is repeated.

Although more research is needed to see how much damage such eruptions might inflict, this work suggests "these enormous events are a recurring feature of the sun - we now have three big events during the past 3,000 years", Muscheler said.

To learn more about SPEs, Lund University's Professor Raimund Muscheler and his colleagues from Sweden, France, Switzerland, Korea, the UAE, and the United States analyzed ice cores from Greenland.

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