A solar disaster isn't a question of if, but when--and it looks like soon
By Damon Tabor
Posted 06.30.2011 at 3:08 pm 24 Comments
One of the biggest disasters we face would begin about 18 hours after the sun spit out a 10-billion-ton ball of plasma--something it has done before and is sure to do again. When the ball, a charged cloud of particles called a coronal mass ejection (CME), struck the Earth, electrical currents would spike through the power grid. Transformers would be destroyed. Lights would go out. Food would spoil and--since the entire transportation system would also be shut down--go unrestocked.
They’re out there, biding their time. Waiting patiently. And when you least expect it, they’re going to plunge you and everyone you care about into total darkness. Luckily, we can see solar storms coming from about 93 million miles away, and NASA is now in the process of creating a “Solar Shield” that should be able to minimize the damage to power grids caused by electromagnetic disturbances in the atmosphere and ground caused by foul weather on the sun.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.