Scientists discover Sun eruptions may cause train accidents during peak travel times

The rail industry has been urged to consider the safety risks of space weather as a new study has found solar storms may cause train accidents.

1 minute & 12 seconds read time

New research has found that Sun eruptions that result in solar storms may cause train accidents during peak travel times.

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The new study published in the journal Space Weather by researchers from Lancaster University in England found that solar storms caused by Sun eruptions have a chance of interfering with electrical signaling stations, which may result in the railroad indicators switching from red (stop) to green (go). For those that don't know, the Sun ejects charged particles in the form of large, fast-moving waves.

This wave of charged particles slams into Earth's magnetic field, sending charged particles toward the planet's poles. The interaction between the solar particles and the molecules in Earth's atmosphere produces what are known as auroras. Additionally, depending on the severity of the CME, or solar flare, the solar storm can be so powerful it knocks out radio communications and electrical equipment.

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"Other industries - such as aviation, electricity generation and transmission, and the space sector - are considering the risks to their operations, and exploring how these [storms] might be mitigated. It's important that the rail sector is included in this planning," Jim Wild, professor of space physics at Lancaster University.

Crucially, our research suggests that space weather is able to flip a signal in either direction, turning a red signal green or a green signal red. This is obviously very significant from a safety perspective.

"By building a computer model of the signalling track circuits using realistic specifications for the various components of the system, we found that space weather events capable of triggering faults in these track circuits are expected in the UK every few decades."

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Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science, space, and artificial intelligence news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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