A recently secret US Navy report reveals that a powerful solar storm apparently caused a mass explotion of US naval sea mines off the Vietnamese coast almost 50 years ago.
According to Space Weather, in August 1972, the crew of a US Task Force 77 aircraft was flying near a naval minefield in the Hon La witnessed some 20 to 25 naval sea mine explosions occurring within every 30 seconds.
The key lies in how the mines are triggered to explode. Each sea mine has a magnetic sensor that can detect subtle changes in magnetic fields. If a passing ship drifts too close to the mines with its metal hull, the altered magnetic field would set off the detonator.
A strong solar flare was enough to mess up the delicate sensors on some of the Navy’s mines placed in Haiphong’s harbor. According to the research paper, that 1972 solar flare was one of the strongest on record, and in addition to exploding a few dozen sea mines also interfered with telephone lines and triggered power outages around the world.
An ensuing examination finished up concluding that there is “a high degree of probability” that the mines had been exploded by the August solar storm activity, ScienceAlert reports citing a declassified US Navy report on the mining of North Vietnam.
Now that light has been shone on the impact of these events on sea mine operations in 1972, the scientific community has another clear example of space weather impacts on technologies.
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