back to article NASA: Earth JUST dodged comms-killing SOLAR BLAST in 2012

A new analysis of data from NASA's Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory (STEREO) by Chinese and Berkeley helioboffins shows that a July 2012 solar storm of unprecedented size would have wiped out global electronic systems if it had occurred just nine days earlier. "Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the …


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    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: How near a miss

      Don't forget the rotational period of the sun. It's about 25 days so 9 days earlier is the same as 16 days later. Assuming the video is accurate it appears to have been in the 90 to 120 degree wide range which puts a planet in the target window for about 6 to 8 days.

    2. Sander van der Wal

      Re: How near a miss

      The sun rotates around its axis in about 26 days. 9/26 means the storm was ejected around 120 degrees away from the line earth-sun, which is on the other side of the sun.

      A near miss indeed.

  1. Hollerith 1

    Aluminium foil manufacturers' shares will increase in value people wrap tinfoil over everything in the house.

    Shirley that would work???

  2. Baron Ebaneezer Wanktrollop III

    Patent incoming!

    I see Apple filing a new patent for an iPhone coated in some strange material that is impervious to solar flares and will therefore continue to work. It won't get a very good signal mind but I suppose that depends on how you hold it......

    1. Fiddler on the roof

      Re: Patent incoming!

      Bit worrying that the only conversations that could take place after this global catastrophe would be about either:

      A) How excited you were or would be when Apple did or is likely to release its latest product.

      B) How much of a dickhead you are.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Patent incoming!

        Well you've just shown the world what a douche you are!!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blocked URLs

    I've asked before, please don't embed YouTube URLs into your articles. Most companies such as where I work block such sites, so when I try to read Register articles such as this one all I see are a bunch of frames containing:

    "Unauthorised access to inappropriate content"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blocked URLs

      It's a pity those companies don't trust employees and contractors to do their work by whatever means is best. There is plenty of potentially work-related material on YouTube (depending to some extent on what your work is).

      More generally, trying to stop people goofing off by censoring Web access is foolish. Hire people who won't goof off. If they do anyway, notice it and tell them to stop. If they ignore your request, fire them. OK?

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Blocked URLs

      I agree with Tom Walsh. Do IT services monitor how long you aren't at your desk? Does your company monitor all your phone usage too?

      Your productivity and internet usage should be the concern of your manager only.

      As for the link, when using the mobile, I wish that the actual link was provided, so I could 'click' and the video would then open in a video player, so i can avoid the slow flash crap.

      Leave the embedded stuff if you want, but have a href fallback please?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        My employer tracks bathroom breaks. I wish I could say it was a joke but it isn't. Hence the ac.

        1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: @jamiejones

          @anon: eeeek! For what it's worth, have a sympathetic upvote.

        2. cyrus

          Re: @jamiejones

          Do they have video recorders in there so they can see you are actually shitting and not smoking crack?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @jamiejones

            I think they use sensitive smoke detectors in bathrooms (and that includes on airplanes). That and some form of clock should suffice to keep bathroom breaks to a minimum.

            As for the IT guy tracking internet usage, etc. consider that the manager may delegated the task to the IT guy as a security matter.

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              Re: @jamiejones

              "As for the IT guy tracking internet usage, etc. consider that the manager maydelegatedthe task to the IT guy as a security matter."

              That's a fair point. I concede it also depends what the job is in the first place.

              'anon' neglected to mention he/she works on the counter at McDonalds!

    3. Alan_Peery

      Re: Blocked URLs

      Instead of pinging TheRegister for this one, ping your firewall team. They just need to block the video stream bits, and not do stupid things like rewriting the content of the web page.

  4. monkeyfish

    The aurora borealis extended as far south as Cuba

    If the aurora borealis was that big, then all comms and electronics failing the world over would be totally worth it.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: The aurora borealis extended as far south as Cuba

      If you just want pretty lights in the sky, suddenly knocking out all electronics in the region of the Crimea right now might be *just* the way to do it.

  5. Herby Silver badge

    Now THAT is what you call

    Global Warming. Caused by our nearest star, not man made. Pretty obvious.

    Of course, others will call it "weapons of mass destruction" and they may just be right.

    Then again, if it hits at night will anyone notice? Ohhh, Aurora!!

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Now THAT is what you call

      "At night", just means the other half of the planet. Pick your side as they say. :/

  6. swschrad

    obviously, the sun is a terrorist!

    but they're having trouble lining up volunteers for the mission to take Old Sol out...

  7. John Savard Silver badge


    We will need to move our entire civilization underground, so that our computers and communications networks will be shielded from this kind of event. Of course, farmers will still need to work on the Earth's surface; perhaps they can keep in touch using fiber optic links!

    Keeping electrical lines short will limit how much current can be produced in them by induction from things like solar storms, so we will want to go away from large interconnected power grids.

    Here's an idea: the five-year old computers that people are throwing away as junk now, why not bury them in caves far underground, so that we can use them after a solar storm fries all our computers up here while waiting for the computer manufacturing industry to be rebuilt? That would be better than tearing them apart to recover toxic metals or whatever. If we don't have a solar storm, at least this will prove to future archeologists that it wasn't a myth that people had computers in the 21st century.

    1. Terry Barnes

      Re: Obviously

      "Here's an idea: the five-year old computers that people are throwing away as junk now, why not bury them in caves far underground, so that we can use them after a solar storm fries all our computers up here"

      Not many would survive an extended period out of use. Capacitors dry out, batteries leak - and what are you going to do with it anyway? Manual skills for shelter, warmth, clothing and food would be far more important. Once those basic needs are met, we need electricity, comms and healthcare.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Obviously

      "the five-year old computers that people are throwing away as junk now, why not bury them in caves far underground, so that we can use them after a solar storm"

      Yeah, but what are the odds that the five year old junkers will runs a modern OS like Windows 8? We'd all have to go back to WinXP. Oh, wait.... :-)

  8. cortland

    The thermometer didn't explode, did it?

    The STEREO probes at L4 and L5 didn't get trashed, and stuff down here in the gravity well isn't *necessarily* going to die.

  9. Doug Punchak

    Thanks guys...a year and a half later?

    Anyone else concerned that we're just getting the "research results" almost 2 years later?! What good would is the information if we can't predict or prepare? At least enough time to turn off our electronics and purchase a Faraday cage for our house. :-)

  10. SloppyMagic

    I wonder if anyone realises that any damage from a large CME (coronal mass ejection) can be totally eliminated by simply turning everything OFF.

    That's right. Except while turning everything OFF isn't exactly a trivial undertaking, believe me it will be a whole lot easier than the 5-10 years of misery that will follow a large CME targeted at the Earth if we don't.

    Everything from the entire electrical grid to your car battery will have to be disconnected in order to avoid damage. All circuit breakers would have to opened, everywhere.

    These mass ejections usually take 2-3 days to reach the earth so there would be sufficient warning. The power grid would only have to be down for the duration of the CME's impact on the earth, probably only 24 hours.

    Some power would have to be left on and the damage as a result "absorbed". I'm thinking nuclear power plants for example that would need continuous cooling.

    It would have to be done, because a CME of sufficient power has the potential to wipeout EVERY SINGLE pole line transformer in the WORLD. And replacement of all those transformers would take years, if not decades to complete, during which you would NOT have any electrical power at all.

    A program needs to be put into place to facilitate this shutdown before it is too late.

    1. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Turn it all off if you wish. It might though still cause fires for all those lines trailing outside your house. Telephone, electric etc. Did you read about the previous event? Those were not "electrified" or "powered" telegraph systems, some had been disconnected and still caused fires.

      Going Fibre to the house is the only protection. ;)

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        your car battery will have to be disconnected in order to avoid damage

        This isn't The War of the Worlds or en EMP pulse, you know. To induce current you need a large current loop.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Or a link to the earth. With enough induced current, an arc might be able to jump gaps and either close loops or run down to earth.

  11. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    Downvote me all you wish. But it's things like this that make me realize I is crazy to consider it "safer" to have people living on Mars instead of staying on Earth. At least on Earth we get the magnetic field to protect us. I wonder what a survival colony would do had that thing hit them. :/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wouldn't said colony live in a dome or other enclosure that can be designed to act like a faraday cage?

      Which makes me wonder. Can a large CME overwhelm the average faraday cage?

  12. Frank N. Stein

    Solar Storm that could've had catastrophic technological consequences? Great. Something to look forward to. Guess the support line wouldn't have been ringing on that day. Would've been a slow day then, or rather a slow 4 to 10 years..

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Hair triggers

    The problem is that a sufficiently large event might convince certain countries (or rather their hair trigger fail-unsafe nuclear arsenals) that a first strike was underway.

    Imagine if the Carrington event had happened during say the Cuban Missile Crisis, or had coincided with the Norwegian weather rocket event in 1995? Missile track incoming, and minutes later everything goes dark, its not outside the realms of possibility that a retaliatory strike would result on one if not both sides.

    It concerns me greatly that in this day and age we still have over 6000 nuclear weapons ready to launch with less than ten minutes notice.

    I'm not pointing fingers here (cough former USSR /cough) but we really have better things to do than have this much megatonnage just waiting for an accident or malicious use.

    We dodged a bullet in 1962 and 1995, but our luck can't hold out forever.



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