What is a magnetic storm? (with photos)

Astronauts and cosmonauts, such as those flying aboard the Soyuz capsule, should monitor coronal mass ejections, as the magnetic storms they cause can interfere with the spacecraft.

A magnetic storm is a disturbance in the Earth’s magnetic field caused by coronal mass ejections (CMEs) or solar flares from the sun. It usually starts between 24 and 36 hours after the solar event, when a shock wave from the solar wind hits the Earth’s ionosphere. The storm typically lasts 24 to 48 hours, although some can last up to days. The effects of such a storm include disruption to communication and navigation systems, intense auroras, damage to satellites, and, during the most extreme storms, induced currents in power lines and pipelines that result in power outages and corrosion.

A magnetic storm is a disturbance in the Earth’s magnetic field.

Severe magnetic storms occur once every decade or so, with the most severe occurring once every century. They occur when energetic particles from a solar storm collide with the ionosphere and magnetosphere, creating a cascade of energetic particles and disrupting the atmosphere’s magnetic and electrical currents. There have been two severe magnetic storms in the last two centuries, including a storm on August 28 – September 2, 1859, which is the largest on record, and another on March 13, 1989.

A magnetic storm can damage electronic components used in satellites.

During the magnetic storm from August 28 to September 2, 1859, auroras were seen as far south as Mexico, Cuba, Hawaii and Italy. Telegraph wires in Europe and North America shorted out, some causing fires. Active sunspots were observed on the Sun just 18 hours before the shock wave arrived, triggering the geomagnetic storm. This is one of the first times a geomagnetic storm has been predicted in advance. The event became known as the solar superstorm of 1859.

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Coronal mass ejections from the Sun have the potential to perturb Earth’s magnetic field.

A more recent magnetic storm, which occurred on March 13, 1989, was more damaging to the world’s infrastructure due to its greater infrastructure in general, as well as increased reliance on sensitive electronics, including satellites. The storm caused the Hydro-Québec power grid to collapse within seconds, as induced currents in the wires blew up transformer cores and fried protective equipment, causing a chain reaction that resulted in power loss for six million people per day. nine hours economic damage. The Toronto Stock Exchange had to be temporarily closed due to computer damage caused by the magnetic storm. Several satellites in orbit were damaged at a cost of several tens of millions of dollars.

Active sunspots were observed before a magnetic storm in 1859.

A magnetic storm can be particularly dangerous for unshielded astronauts, not because of the current induced in Earth’s magnetic field, but because of energetic particles coming directly from the Sun itself. An astronaut in a conventional spacesuit on the surface of the Moon during a severe storm could receive 7,000 rem of radiation, a lethal dose. If the astronaut could be warned and hidden under lunar soil, however, the effect would be minimal.

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