On July 23rd, 2012, a powerful solar storm reached out into space and tore through Earth’s orbit. During this storm, billion-ton clouds of magnetised plasma were hurled through space.
Fortunately, Earth wasn’t there.
If the storm had occurred a week earlier, our Earth would have been in the line of fire – with disastrous consequences. Power failures would have plunged the planet into darkness and left computer systems in a dangerous state of disarray.
The only man-made object directly hit by the solar storm was the spacecraft Stereo-A. It survived to deliver fascinating images and ground-breaking data which have pushed the science of the Sun to a new level.
Not a moment too soon! We urgently need to learn more about our mysterious home-star to develop better defences against its nasty mood swings. Scientists have calculated that there is a substantial risk of a solar super-storm hitting the Earth within the next decade or two.
New space probes will help deliver the information scientists need to predict the future. The recently launched ‘Solar Dynamics Observatory’ delivers a constant stream of high definition images in nine different wavelength-spectrums from four cameras, creating a new and frighteningly vivid picture of the Sun.
Towards the end of 2018, the European Space Agency plans to begin a mission to fly the probe ‘Solar Orbiter’ to within 30 million kilometres of the Sun – closer than ever before.
And in 2024, ‘Solar Probe Plus’ is planned to fly even closer – within a 6 million kilometre range. The heat shield of this probe needs to be 17 centimetres thick so it can withstand temperatures up to 1,430 degrees Celsius. Scientists and engineers have been pondering on such a project for sixty years – now the plan will become reality!
This documentary reveals the most recent findings astronomers and astrophysicists have gathered from the super storm of 2012, and how they would shield the Earth’s infrastructure from the havoc wreaked by the massive electromagnetic fallout.