(WTAJ) — A group of scientists are teaming up with the Department of the Navy to better understand solar storms and prevent a possibly disastrous effect on Earth’s electronic infrastructure.
A group of scientists from George Mason University were recently awarded a $13 million grant to better understand the increased solar activity and help devise a way to try to protect Earth from an “internet apocalypse” that would disrupt all electronic communications, including satellites.
Principal investigator, Professor Peter Becker, told George Mason University that the main focus is on solar activity and the way it can impact Earth’s systems and grids. He said it’s especially important to the Navy and the Department of Defense because these energy outbursts from the sun can have a strong negative impact on earthly radio and internet communications as well as navigation systems.
Becker went on to state in the interview that the internet wasn’t designed to handle this level of interference, and, consequently, is considered a ‘soft’ infrastructure. He went on to add that 2024-2028 is a time when the entire internet could be knocked out for weeks or even months in the event of a “really extreme” solar flare.
Scientists know that the Sun goes through an 11-year solar cycle. The current cycle is set to ramp up in 2024, hitting “solar maximum” and sending potentially damaging coronal mass ejection (CME) — plasma released from the sun’s outer layer — hurling toward Earth.
In another interview, Becker went on to state that when a CME leaves the sun, we would have about 18 hours to prepare for the hit.
The last major solar storm to affect Earth was the Carrington Event in 1859, it was the last time a CME actually reached our planet.
The Carrington Event took place in August 1859 just months before the Sun reached its solar maximum and a CME was seen discharging from the Sun by an amateur skywatcher in England — Richard Carrington.
The next day, the Northern Lights were reported being seen in the tropics, according to Space.com. However, it also destroyed a number of telegraph lines across Earth, even supercharging them and causing people to be electrocuted.