How India uses recycled pipes to detect ferocious solar storms

How India uses recycled pipes to detect ferocious solar storms

What does a sensational scientific discovery about a solar storm in the Earth’s magnetic field have to do with old, recycled steel pipes which lay buried for more than a decade under a now-defunct gold mine in India?

Almost everything.

More than 3,700 such pipes are actually at the heart of a most significant scientific finding.

A team of Indian and Japanese scientists recently published an internationally-feted paper which recorded the events that unfolded after a breach in the Earth’s magnetic shield.

Using the GRAPES-3 muon (a sub-atomic particle) telescope – the world’s largest of its kind – at the Cosmic Ray Laboratory in Ooty, a hill station in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the scientists recorded a two-hour burst of galactic cosmic rays that invaded the atmosphere on 22 June 2015.

The magnetic field breach was the result of charged particles from the Sun striking the Earth at high speed.

Solar storms of such high magnitudes can knock out satellites and aircraft autopilots, cause catastrophic power outages, and take us, according to a lead scientist Dr Sunil Gupta, “back to the Stone Age”.

  • The sudden release of magnetic energy stored in the Sun’s atmosphere can cause a bright flare
  • This can also release bursts of charged particles into space
  • These solar “eruptions” are known as coronal mass ejections or CMEs
  • When headed in our direction, the charged gas collides with the magnetic “sheath” around Earth
  • The subsequent disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic envelope are called solar storms Read More…
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