We all lived through the “Halloween Storms of 2003”; that is, the huge Solar storms that disrupted our Earth’s magnetic field (from 93 million miles away!!). This event took place in the weeks around Halloween from October 19 to November 7.
The Sun’s enormous surface explosions sent billions of tons of electrified gas and sub-atomic particles into space at the incredible speed of five million miles per hour. All solar activity is driven by the solar magnetic field. This was the third most powerful Solar flare ever recorded on October 28, 2003.
The Sun unleashed a powerful flare on November 4, 2003 as the Extreme ultraviolet Imager in the 195A emission line onboard the SOHO spacecraft captured the event as seen above. (Image courtesy of ESA and NASA/SOHO)
What happened to electronic devices on Earth? Air traffic controllers had to re-route aircraft which could receive increased radiation, satellite systems and communications were disrupted, and Sweden experienced power outages for an hour—just to name a few occurrences.
In orbit around the Earth and beyond more than half of the deep space and near-Earth science missions felt the effect of these storms. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite, which was a NASA and European Space Agency (ESA) effort temporarily had system failures. Also NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite was damaged and its onboard instruments needed to be temporarily turned off.
NASA said that the increased solar activity would also have an effect on the International Space Station. The Expedition 8 crew of Commander Mike Foale and Flight Engineer Alexander Kaleri would spend brief periods of time in the aft end of the Zvezda Service Module, which is the location aboard the Station most shielded from higher levels of radiation.
The crew would spend about 20 minutes in Zvezda, twice on each orbit of the Earth for about three orbits, until the station phases out of the high radiation areas (high magnetic latitudes).
Asking the crew to periodically and briefly relocate to Zvezda was not unprecedented. Expeditions 2 and 3 briefly “avoided” high radiation periods in April and November 2001.
Nasa Astrophysicist Holly Gilbert tells us about more experiences during these storms in the following YouTube video by NASA.
Can you imagine a large solar storm in our time? Cell phone and radio/TV reception disrupted—what would we do? We would have to speak to each other in a face-to-face conversation!!! Help us!
Do you remember your experiences in 2003 during this Solar event? Please share with our readers for discussion below.