Did a Solar Flare Sink the Titanic?

A geomagnetic storm was present during the period around the Titanic’s disaster that may have impacted navigation and communication.

Did a Solar Flare Sink the Titanic? Study Suggests Space Weather May Have Been Responsible for Tragedy
by Mihika Basu | Meaww.com

The Titanic struck an iceberg in April 1912, and a new study now suggests that space weather, and a solar flare, in particular, may have contributed to the sinking of the ship by interfering with compasses and radio equipment. Mila Zinkova, an independent researcher from the US, explains that ejection of charged particles from the Sun may have caused the crew to make adjustments that led the Titanic along a slightly different course, and this may have put it on the collision course with the iceberg.

“The Titanic struck an iceberg at 2340 ship time on April 14, 1912 (0310 UTC, April 15) in light winds and a relatively calm sea state. The Titanic’s Fourth Officer Joseph Boxhall worked out the ship’s SOS position. Boxhall’s position was around 13 nautical miles (24 km) off their real position. The rescue ship Carpathia received this wrong position, but somehow miraculously streamed directly to the Titanic’s lifeboats. Both the error and correction may have been caused by the effect of space weather,” writes Zinkova, a retired computer programmer from San Francisco, California, in the journal Weather. She adds, “It is considered here that a significant space weather event, in this instance a geomagnetic storm, was present during the period around the Titanic’s disaster, with some impacts upon navigation and communication.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) describes a geomagnetic storm as a major disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth. They are caused by bursts of radiation and charged particles emitted from the Sun. According to the author, geomagnetic storms interact with the upper atmosphere and may have a detrimental impact on communication and navigation systems, even with the more rudimentary technology of 1912. Such severe space weather from solar activity presents a real hazard to technology and can create some dangerous situations in many aspects of modern human life, she explains in the report.

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