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Earth narrowly avoided complete devastation from a 2012 solar event

A Solar Flare, image taken by the TRACE satellite (NASA
NASA - Wikimedia Commons

Down here on planet earth we all love the sun, and we all adore the wonderful benefits it brings to us such as warmth, light, and life in general, but a new report released today July 25 by NASA suggests that during a solar storm in 2012, the Earth barely avoided a devastating blow that could have caused more than $2 trillion in damage.

Anyone who has spent a even small amount of time outside without wearing sunscreen knows just how powerful, and damaging the sun’s rays can be. The big ball of fire in the sky that gives us so much from such a vast distance also has the power to change life, and destroy infrastructures on Earth.

During the solar event on July 23, 2012, a massive plasma cloud, which is also known as a CME, or Coronal Mass Ejection was ejected from the sun. After leaving the sun, the CME was hurtling towards us at a staggering 1,864 miles per second. Fortunately for us on mother Earth, the cloud missed the planet and passed harmlessly through through Earth’s orbit, however if the plasma cloud had been released by the sun just a week earlier, Earth would have been firmly in its sights.

While the coronal mass ejection missed the planet, it did not miss one of NASA’s observatories. The heap of plasma made a direct hit on a STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) that floats around in Earth’s orbit, and fortunately for us, the spacecraft was able to capture a ton of critical data that has been able to help scientists understand events like this a little better.

According to researchers from NASA, if the plasma cloud had hit Earth, it would have caused more than $2 trillion worth in damage. The plasma cloud would have acted as a massive, naturally occurring EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) that would have knocked out power grids, communications networks, and other networks that we all rely upon so heavily, such as GPS.

Fortunately for us here on Earth, the planet had moved out of the line-of-sight by a week, and life as we know it continued on, but one day we will not be as fortunate. Unfortunately in the future, one of these plasma clouds from our source of life will hit the planet, and while life will go on, it will be a far departure from what we are used to enjoying now.

Source: NASA

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