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Devastating Magnetic Storm Misses Earth By 9 Days

  • VOA News

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) video grab shows ribbons of plasma and magnetic lines bursting from the sun, July, 2014.
American and Chinese scientists say that two years ago, only nine days saved the Earth from a potentially devastating magnetic storm hurled from the sun.

Researchers from the University of California Berkeley and Chinese State Key Laboratory of Space Weather say on July 22, 2012, one of the most intense eruptions ever experienced sent a huge wave of solar plasma toward our planet at a speed of more than 2,000 kilometers per second.

Luckily, the ignition spot was a bit off the mark, so it missed us by a few days. Otherwise, scientists say, it would have caused massive disruptions to the electrical grids and disabled satellites, communication networks, GPS and many other electronic devices on Earth.

According to the researchers, the magnetic storm would have matched the most powerful recorded to date, the so-called Carrington event of 1859. At that time, the telegraph network in the U.S. was down and many of its operators literally felt the electric shock.

In our modern world that depends so much on electronic devices, the damage could have been much greater, reaching trillions of dollars. However, scientists say the probability of such extreme space weather is low.

The analysis of the 2012 magnetic storm was published in the journal Nature Communications.