How the Sun Blew Up Sea Mines in 1972

It is fair to say that we won’t exist without the Sun. While this imposing star is part of what life on Earth depends on, it is also an unseen threat to us too – more so in today’s world where our lives seem to depend on electronics a lot. How so? You see, the Sun has temper. Once in a while, it gets mad and starts spewing solar material into the space at speed of light. This phenomenon is known as solar flare and it is often, but not always, accompanied by a coronal mass ejection.

Usually, solar flare is no threat to life on Earth, but if the solar flare is unusually powerful, the particles from the ejection can reach Earth to result in a solar storm. Now, you must be thinking solar storm is no big deal. Like how can this solar material hurt us, right? A solar storm has electromagnetic radiation, and the x-rays and UV radiation emitted, can disrupt long-range radio communication. And it don’t take a genius know those radiations are bad news for a high-tech world.

Solar flare and the resulting solar storm probably won’t cause aircraft to fall out the sky, but as new investigation into a particularly substantial solar storm 1972 revealed, it could be just as bad as aircraft falling out of the sky. According to a research published in the journal Space Weather, the solar storm that impacted Earth on August 4th, 1972 not only caused significant disruptions and damages to some telecommunications system, but it was also responsible for detonating dozens of sea mines that were placed during the Vietnam War.

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These sea mines were magnetically sensitive and they were designed to set off when ships with steel hull are close by. I bet the weapon designers would never have thought the magnetic radiation from outer space could influence the sea mines that below the surface of the water. This is a fascinating revelation and to some extend, it is a horrifying prospect.

Just imagine if dangerous weapons like in the case of the Vietnam War-era sea mines were in the process of being set and a solar storm hit, it could be devastating. It could not only kill the mine specialists, but also result in massive explosion as ships that would have other explosive ordnance would likely be nearby, killing more people. It kind of have me shuddering in fear.

Featured image by NASA Goddard Space Flight CenterFlickr: Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun – August 31, CC BY 2.0, Link.

Source: Yahoo!