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Claim warning social media users to turn off electronic devices because of cosmic rays is old and still false

IN SHORT: Claims that you should switch off devices to stop body damage due to cosmic rays are false. Cosmic rays can affect your devices, but they’re not harmful to your body.

Posts making the rounds on Facebook in South Africa claim that “tonight between 12:30 to 03:30” our planet will “emit a very high radiation”.

“Tonight at 12:30 to 03:30 you must shutdown your cellular phone, tablets, etc … and put your them away from your body. This is according to CCN television,” the text in the posts read.

According to the posts, cosmic rays “will pass close to the earth” which can “cause terrible damage to your body”. They go on to tell readers to “check at Google for NASA and BBC News” as evidence.

Some social media users were skeptical about the claim. The claim has also been sent to Africa Check multiple times on our WhatsApp lines. 

So what’s the truth here? What are cosmic rays and will they cause “damage to your body” if you use any of your electronic devices?

We checked. 


High-speed particles that travel through space

Cosmic rays are high-speed particles that travel through space, says Britannica. According to the online encyclopaedia, most of the sources of cosmic rays are from within the Milky Way galaxy, and some originate from the sun.

The Milky Way is a large spiral galaxy that is planet Earth’s galactic home.

There are two types of cosmic rays: galactic cosmic radiation, which is formed from the remnants of supernovas, and solar cosmic radiation, which is made up of charged particles emitted by the sun.

Cosmic rays make their way through space and “crash into our atmosphere” where they break down and fall to earth in smaller fragments, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or Nasa, explains.

While there is evidence that cosmic rays can affect our devices, they do not “cause terrible damage to your body”.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an intergovernmental organisation based in Austria, says that cosmic radiation does reach us but it does not cause any harm. It is just like other forms of low-level radiation.

About half of the low-level radiation we are exposed to comes from artificial sources, such as CT scans and X-rays, and the rest comes from natural sources, including cosmic rays.

Earth is protected from the full, harsh effects of cosmic rays by its atmosphere and the magnetic field that surrounds the earth, Nasa says.

Zombie claim that keeps resurrecting

Africa Check has received this claim a number of times and it has been debunked before in other parts of the world, since at least 2017.

Zombie claims like these do the rounds on social media for many years, despite being repeatedly debunked. In this guide, we give tips for spotting this type of misinformation.

There are a few clear red flags that this zombie claim is false. The first is that the text is poorly written, with some grammatical errors.

The claim is also shared on social media without any evidence given. It uses emotional language to play on reader’s emotions, encouraging them to share the warning. 

We also checked mainstream news media and found no trustworthy sources giving similar warnings, another indication that the claim is false.

Resurrected claims like these could cause unnecessary panic.

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