Saturday, September 4, 2021

Solar wave that arrives to Earth on Monday can leave many countries without internet

Mass of particles launched towards our planet has the potential to damage satellites and energy networks

 The sun is agitated and this can pose serious problems for internet services around the world, especially in North America, where the cables that transmit digital signals are more exposed to coronal mass ejections.  According to SpaceWeather.com, a kind of “solar tsunami” moved our star's surface last Thursday (08/26), which created a mass of particles in our direction.

 As the star is approximately 150 million km from Earth, an energy wave will reach the planet on Monday (09/06), potentially causing a G1 class geomagnetic storm.  The chance of this happening varies between 1.6% and 12%, but if it does, the effects will be catastrophic for internet networks.

 Research presented at the SIGCOMM 2021 data conference this week found that North America's vulnerability to coronal mass ejections could disrupt Internet services for months.  It is estimated that for every day without a connection the US loses about $7.2 billion in an unprecedented crisis.

 Earth has natural defenses against solar flares.  When the radiation blasts towards the planet, a magnetosphere sends charged particles to the poles, which creates a kind of lightning rod.  The result of absorption is like the infamous Northern Lights.  However, what happened last Thursday is a little more serious.

 Unlike solar flares, such as coronal mass ejections, caused by rare magnetic storms, they create clouds of plasma clouds that can severely damage power grids.  The electrical supply system was designed to soften the effects of magnetism, but the internet was not.  “The community largely ignored risk when planning geodistributed networks and systems such as DNS and data centers,” says the report released at SIGCOMM 2021.

 The biggest problem, the researchers say, is undersea cables, which act as the backbone of the Internet.  In the case of a geomagnetic storm, the energy particles are channeled into the highest latitudes, and that's precisely where 99% of the strands of the world's web are found.  In Europe, conductors are shorter, which alleviates the problem.  However, in North America, the extension of the cabling is an unlucky chance.

 The last solar events of this magnitude occurred in 1859 and 1921, and drastically damaged the telegraph network.  The internet system, on the other hand, has never been tested.  If it doesn't hold up, all of North America, Europe and Asia could be isolated from the countries acquired in the center of the Earth, if the satellites don't affect everyone.

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