Storm Alert

 

Spacecraft

Space Weather Impacts

Telescope DiagramThere’s no need to run for cover from space weather. Storms from the Sun do not directly harm life on Earth – but they do affect the way we live – particularly since we rely so much on modern technology.

What Can Space Weather Do?

Astronaut• Space weather can pose a radiation hazard for astronauts. Space storms disturb the Van Allen radiation belts, which become filled with "killer electrons" that can pierce the skin of a satellite and the cells of an astronaut. In August 1972, an intense solar flare that occurred between the flights of Apollo 16 and 17 would have killed the astronauts if they had been on the way to the Moon or on the Moon during that time.

• Space weather can distort radio signals and navigation devices such as Loran and the Global Positioning System. In March 1989, listeners in Minnesota could hear the broadcasts of the California Highway Patrol.

Communication Satellite

• Storms in space can disrupt and cut short the work of satellites. In January 1997, a communications satellite (Telstar 401) went dead just hours after a coronal mass ejection (CME) struck the magnetosphere. The loss of that satellite disrupted television signals, telephone calls, and part of a U.S. Earthquake-monitoring network.

Transformer• Magnetic storms can pump extra electricity into our power lines and pipelines, causing blackouts and fuel leaks. In 1989 a magnetic storm burned up a $36 million transformer in New Jersey and collapsed the entire power grid in Quebec, Canada, leaving six million people without electricity.




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