Solar storms from the Sun
Satellites could drop out of action and mobile phones seize up because Britain is not properly prepared for solar storms, it was warned.
Power lines and key infrastructure on Earth are vulnerable to huge clouds of particles spewed from the sun, travelling at millions of miles an hour through space before slamming into the planet.
With a solar storm long overdue to hit, the Royal Society for Engineering warned Britons: "Don't panic, but do prepare," said Prof Paul Cannon.
A solar storm could hit one in ten satellites which currently power popular maps on smart phones and in-car navigation systems. It would also have the capacity to wreak unique havoc on modern society, which depends heavily on electrical gadgets. In fact, any piece of equipment with a microchip would be vulnerable to potentially catastrophic malfunction.
But the stat of preparedness is low, partly because no solar storm has struck during the age of electronic ubiquity in people's personal and professional lives. Drivers have been warned to keep a road map in their car in case of emergencies. The Royal Society urged government to set up a UK Space Weather Board to tackle the issue.
"A solar superstorm will happen one day and we need to be ready for it," said Prof Paul Cannon. "Since the start of the space age, we've had no true solar superstorms, consequently our understanding is pretty limited."
Solar storms, also known as coronal mass ejections, occur on average once every 150 years.
Prof Cannon added: "Our view is that solar superstorms will be a challenge for the UK to deal with, but it will certainly not be cataclysmic,"
Experts moved to quell fears that aircraft's circuits could frazzle and catch fire in mid-air, thousands of feet above ground. Keith Ryden, from the University of Surrey said: "We're not talking about aircraft dropping out of the sky."
Planet Earth has been buffeted by a full-blown solar storm since 1859. Known as the 'Carrington Event,' it caused skies around the world to light up with spectacular aurora borleias displays and saw showers of sparks pour from electricity pylons.
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