Comet Could Trigger an Electromagnetic Armaggedon
December 3, 2012
What if all the world’s electronics, everything from micro-circuitry on cellphones to full-scale power stations, were all wiped out at once?
Prof. David Eichler, of BGU’s Department of Physics, recently published a paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters, about how a large sun-grazing comet roughly the size of the Hale-Bopp comet (with a nucleus of 30 kilometers in diameter) could trigger cosmic-ray generating shockwaves strong enough to initiate a global electronics meltdown.
“When the shockwaves hit the earth’s magnetic field, it would be like the hammer of a piano hitting a string,” says Eichler.
“It would vibrate. And when a magnetic field line vibrates, it makes an electric field, which excites current in wires and could burn out the circuit.”
“With a few classified military exceptions, our electronics remain unprotected against such potential magnetospheric trauma,” he says.
On the bright side, astronomers should, in principle, be able to give us a few years notice if such a large comet is potentially heading towards the sun.