How Earth’s Magnetic Field Twists and Buckles During Solar Storms

Declassified Vietnam War files are showing researchers the unpredictable nature of the Sun and helping them work toward predicting the next big solar storm.
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Travelling at the near-speed of light, energetic particles shooting out from the Sun can zip through space, smack into our planet’s atmosphere, and cause incredible disruptions. And one of the biggest impacts we know of happened during the tail end of the Vietnam War.

On this episode of Focal Point, we hear from Delores Knipp, a space weather scientist and former officer in the U.S. Air Force who uncovered a war mystery that is now connected to a major solar event. And Howard Singer, the chief scientist at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

In 1972, a solar flare, or solar storm, travelled at about 2,800 kilometers per second, which was seven times faster than the norm, and it carried tremendous magnetic field, and mass with it. A dozen sea mines exploded and everyone chalked it up to Vietnam warfare, but it was actually the solar flares. The bits of Sun slammed into the Earth’s magnetosphere within 15 hours and triggered the sea mines.

So how much do we know about solar flares and what’s the chance another event could happen again? Learn more on this episode of Focal Point.

 

Read More:
A 1972 solar storm triggered a Vietnam War mystery
https://www.colorado.edu/today/2018/1…
“On Aug. 4, 1972, U.S. military pilots flying south of Haiphong harbor in North Vietnam saw something unexpected. More than two dozen sea mines suddenly—and without apparent explanation—exploding in the water.”

Understanding the Magnetic Sun
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/…
“The sun’s magnetic field is responsible for everything from the solar explosions that cause space weather on Earth – such as auroras – to the interplanetary magnetic field and radiation through which our spacecraft journeying around the solar system must travel.”

Space Weather Frequently Asked Questions
https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/content/spa…
“Space weather is noticed mostly by its effects on Earth. After a great solar flare in 1859, telegraph operators discovered that currents from the intense aurora borealis was flowing through their systems, causing their telegraph keys to melt and stick in position.”

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