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Every few decades, the sun experiences a particularly large storm that can release as much energy as 1 billion hydrogen bombs. Officials from Europe and the U.S. say an event like that could leave millions on Earth without electricity, running water and phone service.
A massive solar storm could leave millions of people around the world without electricity, running water, or phone service, government officials say.
That was their conclusion after participating in a tabletop exercise that looked at what might happen today if the Earth were struck by a solar storm as intense as the huge storms that occurred in 1921 and 1859.
Solar storms happen when an eruption or explosion on the surface of the sun sends radiation or electrically charged particles toward Earth. Minor storms are common and can light up the Earth's Northern skies and interfere with radio signals.
"When you go into a gas station and put your credit card in and get some gas," he says, "that's a satellite transaction."