NASA has warned of a once-in-a-lifetime ‘space storm’ after the sun wakes ‘from a deep slumber’ sometime around 2013, causing ‘20 times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina’.
Senior space agency scientists believe that the super storm would hit like ‘a bolt of lightning’ and damage everything from emergency services’ systems, hospital equipment, banking systems and air traffic control devices, through to “everyday” items such as home computers, iPods and Sat Navs.
And unless precautions are taken, it could cause catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security.
"We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,” Dr Richard Fisher, the director of NASA’s Heliophysics division, said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.
He, however, said that preparations were similar to those in a hurricane season, where authorities knew a problem was imminent but did not know how serious it would be.
"I think the issue is now that modern society is so dependant on electronics, mobile phones and satellites, much more so than the last time this occurred,” he said.
"There is a severe economic impact from this. We take it very seriously. The economic impact could be like a large, major hurricane or storm,” he added. Fisher said the storm, which will cause the Sun to reach temperatures of more than 10,000 F (5500 degrees Celsius), occurred only a few times over a person’s life.
Every 22 years the Sun’s magnetic energy cycle peaks while the number of sunspots — or flares — hits a maximum level every 11 years.
Fisher said these two events would combine in 2013 to produce huge levels of radiation.