COSMIC STORMS COMING

VIOLENT OUTBURSTS OF GAS FROM THE SURFACE OF THE SUN COULD LEAD TO BIG TROUBLE HERE ON EARTH

For nearly five years the Canadian communications satellite known as Anik E-1 circled the earth without a serious hitch. Last spring, though, the $220 million spacecraft faltered. For hours, until users could switch over to backup systems, the transmission of all sorts of critical data--credit-card transactions, newspaper layouts, electronic paging requests, television and radio broadcasts--stopped. It took scientists a while, but they finally figured out what had caused the outage: storm damage.

Bad weather in outer space? No doubt about it. Experts think a spark shorted out the connections between the satellite's solar-power panels and several dozen of its radio relays....

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