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A solar storm in 2012 just barely avoided devastating our planet

Zach Honig

If you've spent time on a beach without protection, you probably have a good idea of just how damaging the sun can be. That gigantic star that gives us life from millions of miles away can also do great harm, as Earth nearly discovered during a powerful 2012 solar storm. According to NASA, during the July 23, 2012 event, a plasma cloud left the sun traveling at 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) per second, passing through Earth's orbit. Our planet wasn't in its path at the time, but would have been just a week before. Instead, it hit a STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) spacecraft, which was able to capture tons of relevant data. According to a study, the cloud could have caused more than $2 trillion in damage, knocking out electrical, communication and other global networks. Unfortunately, it may not be possible to prevent such a disaster, and while life would go on, it would be a far departure from what we're used to today.

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