Solar Storms: Rising Threat to Technology

The sun will be getting more active over the next few years and, reports CBS News Correspondent White Johnson, scientists are worried about the possible impact on all sorts of technology we take for granted, including satellites such storms could cripple.

NASA says there have been five sun storms in the past century, and others could be on their way. No one is sure when the next one could hit, but researchers are hard at work trying to come up with better prediction mechanisms as they try to better protect that tech.

The fiery explosions blistering the sun's surface have energy bursts with the strength of 1 billion hydrogen bombs.

"Now we are going into the peak of the solar cycle," explains NASA's Lika Guhathakurta, "and, as we approach the peak, what happens is that the magnetic field on the sun gets twisted and really tense."

Powerful electric charges can be sent rocketing toward earth.

In 1989, just a minor flare knocked out electricity to millions of Canadians.

"If you lose your Internet, if you lose your satellite connection, if you lose your electricity," Guhathakurta points out, "there is no Wall Sreet, there is nothing. It's almost throwing us back a hundred years."

Companies and governments are trying to develop better safeguards against the impact solar storms, Johnson notes. In fact, the House this week voted to spend $100 million to protect our power grid from this rare event.