NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured this image of a solar flare — as seen in the bright flash on the top right — on Oct. 2, 2022. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light that highlights the extremely hot material in flares and which is colorized in orange.

Could a powerful solar storm wipe out the internet?

In Becky Chambers’ 2019 novel “To Be Taught, If Fortunate”, a massive solar storm wipes out the internet on Earth, leaving a group of astronauts stranded in space with no way to call home. It’s a terrifying prospect, but could a solar storm knock out the internet in real life? And if so, what is the probability of this happening?

Yes, it could happen, but it would take a giant solar storm, Mathew Owens, a solar physicist at the University of Reading in the UK, told Live Science. “You would really need a huge event to do that, which isn’t impossible,” Owens said. “But I think removing power grids is more likely.” In fact, this phenomenon has already occurred on a small scale.

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