Earth is such a habitable planet, thanks to the layers of protective shields that surround it. These shields- atmosphere and magnetosphere- fortify our beautiful planet against powerful cosmic radiations, solar flares and meteors. While Earth’s atmosphere protects it against meteors, UV rays and other cosmic rays, the magnetosphere protects it from solar winds, X-rays and other high-intensity cosmic radiations.
But recently world’s largest and most sensitive cosmic ray monitor observed a breach in the magnetosphere and that has sent chills across the global scientific community.
GRAPES-3 muon telescope in Ooty, Tamil Nadu recorded a massive burst of galactic cosmic rays on June 22, 2015. For nearly 2 hours, Earth’s magnetosphere was bombarded with high-energy particles that were ejected from Sun’s corona (or outer atmosphere). These particles that were travelling at a speed of about 2.5 million km per hour struck our planet, caused a severe compression of the magnetosphere forcing it to shrink from 11 to 4 times the radius of the Earth.
What’s worse is that the burst caused a temporary crack in the magnetosphere, that acts like the first line of defence against the cosmic radiations.
So how does it affect us?
The powerful outburst not only generated aurora borealis but also caused a blackout in many high-latitude countries in north and south America.
If blackouts weren’t scary enough, the entire radio systems on Earth went haywire.
According to scientists, such bursts could not only cripple modern technological infrastructure, which includes radio communication and mobile telephony, but also endanger the lives of the astronauts in space.