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Scientists are worried our sun is preparing to pump out a massive solar event that could knock out the internet for months.
Earth's ionosphere does a wonderful job defending us from solar winds ejected from the sun and deflects them to our poles (which cause the incredible northern and southern lights), however this system wouldn't be able to fully stop rays from a humungous coronal mass ejection (CME).
CMEs consist of electrically conducting plasma emitted from the sun and, if they're big enough, they can race towards the earth at 2,000km/s. It would only take a few days for it to reach us.
Because they're electrically conducting, they have the potential to affect anything that is powered by electricity, which is essentially everything we hold dear to us these days.
Information presented at the SIGCOMM 2021 data communication conference has warned the world is not ready for such an event and could be catastrophic to modern life.
Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi, an assistant professor at the University of California, explained in her paper that an 'internet apocalypse' could last for a long time.
She told WIRED: "What really got me thinking about this is that with the pandemic we saw how unprepared the world was.
"There was no protocol to deal with it effectively, and it's the same with internet resilience. Our infrastructure is not prepared for a large-scale solar event."
She has warned that a particularly massive CME could 'cause large-scale Internet outages covering the entire globe and lasting several months'.
Our central celestial body pushes out a supermassive coronal mass ejection roughly once a century.
Back in May 1921, there were reports of fires breaking out in power control rooms in the UK and US, while places all over the world suffered problems with their electricity.
It caused the most vivid Aurora Borealis in three decades and brought some places to a standstill.
Jeffrey Love, a Geophysicist in the Geomagnetism Program of the US Geological Survey (USGS), told The Independent our world has developed massively in the last 100 years and a solar event similar to 1921 would cause carnage.
"The effects were in terms of interference to radio communications, telegraph, and telephone systems, all of which were used in 1921," he said.
"When we look back at this time, anything that's related to electricity wasn't as important in 1921 as it is today."
Dr. Scott McIntosh, deputy director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, added that we should expect a CME aimed at earth soon.
"We have every reason to believe that the current solar cycle which began in December 2019 could be the most active since the 1970s. This is a particular concern for the GPS," he told NextGov.com.
"Strong solar storms can charge the atmosphere and prevent signals from getting through for days. The strongest can damage or even destroy satellites."
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