On August 4, 1972, dozens of mines seemed spontaneously explode of water in Hon La, Vietnam. The weapons had been…
On August 4, 1972, dozens of mines seemed spontaneously explode of water in Hon La, Vietnam. The weapons had been planted there as part of Operation Pocket Money, a US plan to block North Vietnam from shipping operations during the Vietnam War and they would detonate in the presence of ships. But on that summer day of 1972, American troops floating over their heads saw no ships that could have caused the mines to go out.
As Becky Ferreira reports for Motherboard a new study was accepted for the magazine Space Weather has presented a possible solution to this mysterious war event. The mines, according to the researchers, were likely to be triggered by a heavy solar storm that triggered the magnetic sensors of the mines and led to unexpected explosions.
The new research is based in part on unclassified marine documents, “Far Buried in Vietnam War Archives,” according to the study authors. Navy officials immediately launched an investigation into the unexplained detonations, and soon suspected that solar activity was a sinner.
As Brett Carter explains in Conversation many of the mines saw randomly descended from “Magnetic Influence Navy Minor”, which are designed to detect changes in magnetic fields caused by suitable ships. By the 1
970s it was well known that solar activity could interfere with the magnetic field on earth, but the navy officials would confirm that solar activity could also trigger deep submersed mines. They consulted experts at the Space Environmental Laboratory at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and ended with a “high degree of likelihood” that the mines had been suspended by an intense solar storm.
The new study, led by Delore Knipp at the University of Colorado, confirms this assessment. In the days leading to the explosions, researchers say, a sun protection area called MR 11976 spewed out “a series of brilliant flares, energetic particle enhancements and land-based ejecta.” A “coronary mass extermination” or a large expulsion of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun reached the earth in only 14.6 hours; In accordance with Gizmodo s George Dvorsky, it would normally take such an event a day or two to meet the geomagnetic fields of the earth. The researchers assign this speed to two previous impulses, which “cleaned the interplanetary route” for an ultra-fast ejection.
North Vietnam was not the only region affected by this solar storm. Researchers in several places, including the Philippines, Brazil and Japan, also noted magnetic interference in the atmosphere. On 4 and 5 August 1972, US and Canadian power stations reported power outages that ranged from less to severe, and there were telephone and telegraph interruptions on a cable connecting Illinois and Iowa.
The researchers say that the 1972 event was likely to be “Carrington Class”, referring to a huge solar storm that took place in 1859. During the Carrington Event, called Richard Carrington, the British astronomer first realized that solar activity could cause geomagnetic earthquakes “The northern lights were reported as far south as Cuba and Honolulu, while the southern lights were seen as far north as Santiago, Chile,” writes Richard A. Lovett of National Geographic . In the United States sparks spread out of telegraph equipment, sometimes fires start.
Should such an event happen today – when our lives are so intricate in connection with technology – the results can be catastrophic and cause mass loss and interference in GPS and satellite communications. So, using modern modeling to better understand solar storms, like 1972, we can help us prepare for similar events in the future.
“In our opinion,” the authors say, “this storm deserves a scientific reassessment as a major challenge for the space weather community.”