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Solar flares set to wreak havoc on GPS signals

Vlad Savov
February 10, 2010
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The sun's activity isn't usually a hot topic around these parts, but when it threatens to derail satellite navigation services around the world, it must surely take center stage. UK researchers have corroborated Cornell's 2006 warning that our solar system's main life-giver is about to wake up and head toward a new solar maximum -- a period of elevated surface activity and radiation. It is precisely that radiation, which can be perceived in the form of solar flares, that worries people with respect to GPS signaling, as its effects on the Earth's ionosphere are likely to cause delays in data transmission from satellites to receivers and thereby result in triangulation errors. Still, it's more likely to be "troublesome than dangerous," but inaccuracies of around 10 meters and signal blackouts that could last for hours are being forecast in the absence of any intervening steps being taken. So yes, you now have another reason not to trust your GPS too much.

[Thanks, Mike]



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