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Solar storm: 40 satellites knocked down, incinerated on Earth’s return – report

Source: Pixabay

Recent solar storms have supposedly knocked down many satellites from the skies, causing them to burn up when they re-enter Earth’s atmosphere, Gulf News reported.

NASA captures intense solar storm activity during June

Attention, skywatchers. New information from NASA models indicates that a solar storm triggered by the recent M9.7 flare could hit Earth around noon on June 11.

On February 8, 2022, SpaceX disclosed the loss of 40 satellites following a geomagnetic storm occurring a day after launch. According to SpaceX, the onboard GPS indicated that the storm escalated rapidly, resulting in atmospheric drag increasing by up to 50% more than observed during previous launches.

Engineers attempted to activate a “safe mode” for the satellites, orienting them edge-on to reduce drag. However, the drag proved to be too intense, preventing the satellites from exiting the safe mode and returning to their intended orbit.

Out of the 40 satellites, which made up 80% of the group put into low-Earth orbit, they burned up when re-entering the atmosphere due to their orbits slowly decaying after the solar burst. As of May 2024, there were 6,078 Starlink satellites orbiting, according to a tracking site.

The exact number of satellites affected or damaged by the recent solar storms is not yet known. Besides the incident in February, SpaceX also acknowledged on May 11, 2024, that its services had been impacted. CEO Elon Musk mentioned on X that while their satellites were experiencing significant stress, they were managing to hold up for now.

Source: NASA

On June 1, there were two significant solar flares: an X1.4 and an X1.01. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of both events.

Potential impacts of strong solar radiation storm

Powerful solar bursts don’t just affect satellites; they can also mess with power grids. In really serious situations, they might even lead to widespread blackouts. During the first week of June, the sun was quite active, releasing a series of solar flares. According to NASA, this activity is part of Solar Cycle 25, which began in December 2019 and is now approaching its peak known as solar maximum, a phase when eruptions are frequent.

Scientists are researching these effects to safeguard our power grids and assist satellite operators in shielding their equipment. Additionally, astronauts can steer clear of spacewalks during severe storms to avoid potential hazards. Since these particles can interfere with Earth’s upper atmosphere, they may induce power line surges that could harm equipment.

Solar radiation storms of this magnitude can cause significant impacts, according to The Watchers. Astronauts conducting extravehicular activities (EVA) are advised to avoid radiation exposure, and passengers and crew aboard high-flying aircraft at high latitudes may face increased radiation risks.

About the author

Brendan Taylor

Brendan Taylor was a TV news producer for 5 and a half years. He is an experienced writer. Brendan covers Breaking News at Insider Paper.

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