How a Sun-Flare could blow out GPS satellites

981sunflare.jpgA little thought for the day – what if a sun flare blew the circuits on the satellites orbiting the earth and destroyed the world’s GPS system?

Just a little disaster scenario for you to mull over. The issue has come to light because – yes – there has been a sun-flare and yes it is possible that a flare of sufficient strength could destroy the satellites.

Sun flares happen from time to time and usually don’t cause too many problems, but we have been steadily packing more satellites into orbit in the past decade and as a world have become much more reliant on GPS to let us navigate and know where we are.

What if the Google Maps app just stopped working and if the satnav frankly didn’t have a clue where you were? Pretty scary but according to the Public Astronomer it’s not a likely threat this time. But the risk does remain.

Well if a sun-flare did blow the system, we needn’t worry about GPS making us dumber, a problem raised by author Christopher Somerville. We’d all just have to get the Ordinance Survey out and try and remember how co-ordinates worked..

Related: The danger of using mobile maps abroad: why GPS is free but downloading maps isn’t

Anna Leach