February 11, 2022
The star at the center of our planetary system delivered a reminder of its power last week when it took out as many as 40 Starlink satellites.
The launch of 49 LEOsats last Thursday hit a geomagnetic storm that caused atmospheric drag to increase up to 50% higher than during previous launches, SpaceX said.
The satellites were switched into "safe-mode" but were unable to deploy in orbit, with up to 40 falling back into the Earth's atmosphere, the company advised.
But the sun is not just a menace to the plans of earthly billionaires – some experts think it has the potential to take out the entire Internet.
It is not new that major solar events such as coronial mass ejections (CME) can produce geomagnetically induced currents (GIC) on the earth's surface that threaten terrestrial installations like the power grid and, in extreme cases, damage the electronics that power long haul fiber cables.
But researcher Sangeetha Abdu Jyothi from University of California Irvine argues in a recent SIGCOMM paper that the subsea cable industry underestimates the threat and is unprepared for it.
She said the potential for massive disruption is well understood among scientists, especially in relation to power grids.
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