How a solar storm almost turned the Cold War hot



August 10, 2016

In 1967, Cold War tensions were running high. Five years earlier, the Cuban Missile Crisis had kept the entire United States on edge for 13 days straight, and in 1965 troops were sent to Vietnam for the first time. Since 1957, one third of the US Air Force’s bomber fleet was on alert (pdf) at any given time, ready to fire up their engines and take off in 15 minutes or less. It was in this tense, paranoid atmosphere that one of the largest solar storms of the 20th century erupted and nearly triggered an unprovoked attack on Soviet Russia.


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