Awful! Giant solar storms and impact on satellites: lost in space

Giant solar storms not only have the power to wreak havoc on Earth, they can also target the satellites in its orbit.

The active status of the sun worries astronomers, mainly because it spares strong geomagnetic storms on Earth. The sun is in its active phase, and scientists worry that the solar flares reaching Earth could knock out the power grid, the Internet, cell phones, and more on Earth. However, the effect of solar storms can be much greater than one can imagine. They can even affect satellites in Earth’s orbit. In October 2003, a major storm hit Earth and, to the horror of rendered controllers, they lost sight of hundreds of satellites for days. And now space researchers worry that the next major solar storm could wreak havoc on near-Earth space for weeks.

According to a report from Space.com, the US Space Surveillance Network (SSN) has tracked nearly 20,000 objects larger than 4 inches (10 centimeters) in low Earth orbit, the area of ​​space at altitudes below 620 miles (1,000 kilometers). While some of these objects are operational satellites, others are defunct spacecraft, spent rocket stages, and debris fragments created by collisions.

SSN experts track the location of these objects using radar measurements. It will also help them project their trajectories into the future. The report explains: “If two objects, for example a piece of space debris and a satellite, appear dangerously close to each other, the satellite operator receives a warning. In some cases, they perform evasive maneuvers to avoid a crash. ”

However, if the positions of these space objects are not accurately tracked, as during these storms, it becomes difficult to know whether collisions will occur or not. “In the biggest storms, the orbital errors become so large that the catalog of orbital objects becomes essentially invalid,” Tom Berger, a solar physicist and director of the Space Weather Technology Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is quoted as saying by the portal. He said the objects could be tens of kilometers away from the last radar-located positions, making the work of controllers impossible and, in turn, a threat to satellites. In fact, it’s a double whammy: losing control of satellites and inaccurate tracking of objects in space.

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