NASA – According to a recent study, two coronal mass ejections (CMEs) erupted from the Sun on 23rd July 2012 and traveled with a speed of 3,000 KM per second towards Earth. Fortunately for us, they did not strike Earth’s surface, but instead just missed it.
If the CMEs had hit Earth, NASA has said, they would have devastated our electrical systems. To clarify, a coronal mass ejection is huge burst of solar wind and magnetic fields from the Sun.
“If the eruption had occurred only one week earlier, Earth would have been in the line of fire,” said Daniel Baker of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado.
“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” he added.
The CMEs would have knocked out power for most parts of the world, NASA has said. Radio signals and GPS signals would have also been compromised, and satellites could have experienced huge amounts of damage. In total, the eruption would have cost the world around $2 trillion in damages.
Although the eruption just barely missed Earth, it did hit the Stereo A spacecraft, which allowed NASA to study the CMEs without having to experience them firsthand. It opened the world’s eyes to just how powerful and destructive a severe solar eruption can be.
NASA has reported that these CMEs are most likely the largest ones ever recorded. The only other solar eruption that has ever come close is the 1859 burst called the Carrington event. The solar storm just barely missed Earth, and was the largest solar storm ever recorded. Until now, that is.
“I have come away from our recent studies more convinced than ever that Earth and its inhabitants were incredibly fortunate that the 2012 eruption happened when it did,” said Baker. “We need to be prepared.”
Researchers are now warning people to take precautions in case a solar eruption does hit Earth in the future. They are saying to always keep gas tanks half full, and plastic water containers frozen in the freezer. It sounds almost superstitious, but it could save someone’s life if a CME ever hits Earth!