Uh oh. "The Sun is waking up from a deep slumber," NASA 's Richard Fisher says. It looks like old Sol is going to be in a cranky mood when it becomes fully awake, ready to wreak havoc on gadgets across the globe. Could this be the 2012 disaster superstitious fraidy-cats are babbling about?
In April, one of the most massive solar eruptions in years occurred. Luckily, Earth wasn't in the line of fire. Scientists warn that if we find ourselves in the path of one of these gigantic solar storms, it could cost $2 trillion to fix the resulting mess. Big uh-oh. That's 20 times the damage of Hurricane Katrina.
We depend so much on technology, this could be an unprecedented disaster. Not only would such an eruption take out numerous satellites that we use for GPS navigation, communications, TV and Internet, but our electrical grid could conduct the massive amount of electromagnetic energy released, perhaps knocking out power across the globe in the most gigantic blackout in history. The Sun could turn the whole world into North Korea.
Thank goodness, some of the damage can be avoided by putting satellites in "safe mode," shutting down transformers on smart electrical grids, and disconnecting our gadgetry when we know a solar storm is coming. And NASA is steadily learning how to forecast solar storms with help from the newly launched Solar Dynamics Observatory, along with numerous other spacecraft watching the sun.