The Day Earth Lost Half Its Satellites (Halloween Storms 2003)

Posted: October 30, 2021 by oldbrew in Geomagnetism, solar system dynamics
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Quote: “the majority of [low Earth orbiting] satellites were temporarily lost, requiring several days of around-the-clock work to reestablish [their positions].” — Beware solar flares.

Oct. 29, 2021: Imagine waking up to this headline: “Half of Earth’s Satellites Lost!” Impossible? It actually happened on an October day in 2003.

Turn back the clock 18 years. Solar Cycle 23 was winding down, and space weather forecasters were talking about how quiet things would soon become when, suddenly, the sun unleashed two of the strongest solar flares of the Space Age. The first, an X17-category blast on Oct. 28, 2003, hurled this CME directly toward Earth:

Above: A CME heading straight for Earth on Oct. 28, 2003. The source was an X17-flare in the magnetic canopy of giant sunspot 486. Image credit: SOHO. Movie

Traveling 2125 km/s (almost 5 million mph), the cloud slammed into Earth’s magnetic field only 19 hours later, sparking an extreme (G5) geomagnetic storm. The storm had barely begun when the sun erupted again. An X10-flare on Oct. 29th created another…

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  1. oldbrew says:

    The ‘much-anticipated storm’ ( turned out to be a damp squib…

    WEAK CME IMPACT AND GEOMAGNETIC STORM: A CME hit Earth’s magnetic field on Oct. 31st at ~10:00 UT. The impact was weak–a far cry from the “big hit” we expected–and it sparked an equally weak G1-class geomagnetic storm.
    . . .
    In summary, the Halloween Storm of 2021 was more trick than treat. What happened? It’s possible that the bulk of the Oct. 28th CME simply missed our planet.