Could a powerful solar storm wipe out the internet?

In Becky Chambers’ 2019 novella “To Be Taught, If Fortunate,” a massive solar storm wipes out Earth’s internet, leaving a group of astronauts stranded in space with no way to phone home. It’s a terrifying prospect, but could a solar storm knock out the internet in real life? And if so, how likely is that to happen?

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

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