The Vietnam War was quite infamous in U.S. history. However, many non-military events happened during the war, including a massive solar storm which caused hidden bombs to detonate. A new study published in the journal Space Weather explains how the huge solar storm caused hidden sea mines to explode unintentionally.
The unpleasant event occurred in North Vietnam on 4 Aug. 1972.
“These effects, long buried in the Vietnam War archives, add credence to the severity of the storm: a nearly instantaneous, unintended detonation of dozens of sea mines south of Hai Phong,” the study reads.
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The authors also noted that this unpleasant event took place near the end of the war in Vietnam. As they noted, the U.S. Navy assigned the consequences of the event to “magnetic perturbations of solar storms.” After conducting their research, the study authors found that widespread electric and communication-grid disruption that was recorded in North America and southeast Asia on late Aug. 4 was caused from the eruptive explosion of the hidden bombs buried in the ocean.
The study was initially reported by Live Science. It reports that the X-ray emissions caused by the solar storm lasted more than 16 hours and caused major disruptions in Earth’s communication systems and equipment. The study also noted that a defense communications satellite “suffered a mission-ending on-orbit power failure,” causing Air Force Sensors to turn on and give a false reading that a nuclear weapon had been detonated on Earth. NASA described the 1972 event as “legendary” since the huge solar storm took place between two Apollo missions.
“The crew of Apollo 16 had returned to Earth in April and the crew of Apollo 17 was preparing for a moon landing in December,” NASA wrote on its website.
Live Science reports that pilots were flying near the part of Vietnam when they noticed two dozen explosions in just a 30-second period. Afterwards, the U.S. Navy investigated the events and figured out that the solar storm caused the mines’ magnetic sensors to trigger, as if ships were passing above them, causing them to detonate.
Explosions felt around the globe
The report says the explosions of the hidden bombs were felt all around the planet.
“Dayside radio blackouts… developed within minutes. X-ray emissions from the long-duration flare remained [high] for [more than] 16 hours,” the authors wrote in their study.
A 3,080-kilometer-per-second shock was felt near the Guam observatory, causing the magnetometer traces to go “off scale” in Boulder, Colo., while a “bright aurora appeared in the northern United States,” the researchers wrote in their paper.
The effects of the hidden bombs detonating were even felt in Honolulu Hawaii, parts of the southern coast of the U.K. and within 2 hours, “commercial airline pilots reported aurora as far south as Bilbao, Spain,” which was extremely odd, given that auroras appear mainly around Earth’s poles.
This unpleasant event caused the U.S. Navy to look for an alternative approach to magnetic sensor mines which wouldn’t be affected by solar events.
The researchers wrote that it’s still unclear what would this massive solar storm do to the modern-day satellites if it were to strike now, although there was a large solar storm in 2012, that narrowly missed Earth, and hit the nearby satellites, according to NASA.