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Earth Barely Dodged Solar Blast In 2012 202

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the close-call dept.
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Coronal mass ejections, with severity comparable to the 1859 Carrington event, missed Earth by only 9 days in 2012, according to researchers. The Carrington event caused widespread damage to the telegraph system in the U.S., and a similar occurrence would be devastating to modern electronics, it is thought. From the Reuters article, 'Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous.' The potential global cost for such damage is pegged at $2.6 trillion."

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Earth Barely Dodged Solar Blast In 2012

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  • Huh? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2014 @01:17PM (#46535991)

    "Coronal mass ejections, with in 2012, according to researchers."

    What..

  • by fnj (64210) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @02:04PM (#46536501)

    Crank away on that points-equipped car -- the ignition coil will be fried, and so will the copper windings in the starter and altern/generator.

    There were no solid-state chips then, and, still, unconnected telegraph receivers were tapping away receiving imaginary messages from the ZOMG to earth.

    Think. I know it's hard, but try it. We're not talking about magic here. The car does not have an antenna hundreds of km to over a thousand km long. Electric fields are measured in volts per meter, not volts per fairy tale.

    Inducing a 20 mA current in a telegraph line hundreds of km long (which is all it takes to "tap away") is slightly different from inducing tens to hundreds of thousands of amps for tens of seconds to minutes. That's what it would take to "fry" the windings in a starter or alternator. And the antenna length of the wiring attached to the starter or alternator is no more than a couple of meters, INSIDE a faraday cage.

    An ignition coil would take less current to burn out than a starter or alternator, but still a whole hell of a lot more current than it would ever see inside the faraday cage of the car body.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @02:53PM (#46537037)
    Because it's not a random "energy surge", it's a cloud of charged particles. It won't travel through the atmosphere to destroy your electronics, it will need the geomagnetic field to do its dirty job. It's precisely because the energy gets converted into current in large looped conductors why things get damaged. Such as - you get it - the power grid. Or metallic telecommunications, for that matter.
  • by cusco (717999) <<brian.bixby> <at> <gmail.com>> on Thursday March 20, 2014 @03:29PM (#46537387)

    Probably because the electrical grid is controlled by for-profit corporations run by executives hyper-focused on short-term revenue to get their next bonus.

  • by jeffb (2.718) (1189693) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @03:38PM (#46537469)

    You seem to think that the damage comes from stuffing too many electrons into a box. That's not how it works at all.

    A Faraday cage shields its contents, period. A magical tether to Mother Earth might make you feel better, but it makes no difference to Maxwell's equations.

    To put it in simpler and more specific terms, cars (and airplanes) frequently survive direct lightning strikes with no damage to their electrical systems. The energy from even a Carrington-level event, over the area of a car, is miniscule compared to the energy of a lightning strike. I'm not even sure it would exceed the energy of the static you build up scooting across the seat and then touching the door handle.

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