By Bruce Dorminey | Forbes
Large sun-grazing comets could bring on the sort of global electronics meltdown usually associated with electromagnetic pulse weapons or a full-scale nuclear exchange.
Or so says David Eichler, lead author of a forthcoming Astrophysical Journal Letters paper positing that a sun-grazing comet roughly the size of Hale-Bopp (with a nucleus some 30 kms in diameter), could trigger a cosmic ray shockwave large enough to initiate a global electromagnetic Armageddon.
Eichler, an astrophysicist at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, argues that satellites that weren’t in protection mode would be wiped out along with most of the world’s electronics — everything from micro-circuitry on cell phones to full-scale power stations.
If it were a Hale-Bopp-sized comet, Eichler says, it would be much bigger than any solar flare we’ve ever seen. The comet gets compressed and then explodes in the solar atmosphere, which in turn generates a cosmic ray shockwave, says Eichler.
Eichler thinks that a large sun-grazing comet may have triggered a large solar flare and cosmic ray shockwave as recently as 775 A.D., as indicated by tree ring analysis which points to that year as having had a sudden 1.2 percent spike in atmospheric Carbon 14.
“I’m not saying that [event] couldn’t have been caused by a magnetic solar flare, but we’ve never seen a solar flare nearly that big,” said Eichler. Although the motion of such a sun-grazer would be the source of the shockwave’s energy, the actual particle acceleration would happen within the sun’s magnetic field, explains Eichler.
Traveling at a 1000 kms per second, the shockwave would reach earth in about a day and a half. And it would likely be much worse than the 1859 Carrington Event, a solar superstorm that wreaked havoc on telegraph lines and caused the aurora borealis to be visible as far south as Texas.