Kolkata: There was a huge solar flare in 1859. It was so large that it could be seen with the naked eye. In 1989, a solar storm wiped out Canada's northern electric grid. Canada was out of power for almost three days.
Violent magnetic emissions from the sun could one day destroy all electronic equipment on earth.
An Indian scientist from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research has helped NASA predict when such explosions are likely to happen.
"The activity of the sun affects satellites, air traffic on polar routes, telecommunications. So there is a huge industry in trying to develop forecasting capabilities," said Dibyendu Nandi of Indian Institute of Science Education and Research.
For the past 10 years, the sun is worryingly quiet. And even that can severely disrupt earth's climate. Scientists couldn't predict the sun's violent and silent phases. But Doctor Dibyendu Nandi has found a way.
Super hot currents of plasma ripple on the sun's surface and inside it, driven by chemical reactions and magnetic fields. Dibyendu's theories and computer simulations warn when those forces build up unbearably, to trigger an explosion.
Dibyendu is now gearing up for Aditya, India's satellite to study the sun, which will be launched in 2014.
"Aditya will help study the sun," said Dibyendu.
NASA making headlines on exotic phenomena like solar flares isn't unusual, but an Indian scientist spearheading that breakthrough, certainly is. After the Chandrayaan moon mission, it's another happy example of Indian science rising to an entirely new level.