The Weather In Space Is Frightful

There’s no need to run for cover from space weather. Storms from the Sun do not harm life on Earth, but they do affect the way we live –particularly since we rely so much on modern technology. 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. Storms in space can disrupt and cut short the work of satellites. In January 1997, a communications satellite 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.

Space weather can pose a radiation hazard for astronauts. In August 1972, an intense solar flare that occurred between the flights of Apollo 16 and 17 might have killed the astronauts if they had been on the way to the Moon during that time. Magnetic storms can pump extra electricity into our power lines and pipelines, causing blackouts and fuelleaks. In March 1989, a magnetic storm burned up a $36 million electric power transformer in New Jersey and collapsed the entire power grid in Quebec, Canada, leaving six million people without electricity.

  The Space Weather Center is part of the National Space Weather Program, with funding provided by NASA and the National Science Foundation.  

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