Due to the increasing frequency of solar flares, strong geomagnetic storms can cause real chaos in Earth orbit .
SpaceX owner Elon Musk has received an important warning from space weather experts. They argue that the increasing solar flares and coronal mass ejections that cause geomagnetic storms on Earth could disable Starlink satellites, according to the Express.
Last week, as Focus< /em>, class M flares on the Sun (and there are as many as 5 such classes of flares, and the M-class is a very serious flare), caused a strong geomagnetic storm to appear on Earth, which lasted several days. Now, almost every day, scientists monitor the Sun in order to be able to predict the appearance of flares and coronal mass ejections.
Flares on the Sun are a powerful emission of radiation that appears in special regions on our star – sunspots. This radiation is sent into space along with a coronal mass ejection (a stream of charged solar particles). If the flow is directed towards the Earth, then after a collision with the magnetosphere and atmosphere, it causes the appearance of bright auroras and affects the operation of satellites in orbit, as well as power systems, communication and navigation systems on Earth. It has a very negative effect, up to the failure of satellites and systems.
By the way, on July 27, as many as 6 spots appeared on the Sun and scientists expected the appearance of M-class flares, or even more powerful X-class flares. So far, the probability of strong eruptions on the Sun remains.
Companies like America's Starlink and Britain's OneWeb have sent thousands of communications satellites into space into Earth orbit. Elon Musk plans to send about 42 thousand of his satellites into space.
But scientists who monitor space weather have warned Musk that violent geomagnetic storms, which are becoming more frequent, could seriously harm Starlink satellites. There is a high probability that these satellites will fail altogether. A similar situation with Musk's satellites already happened earlier this year, when after launching 49 satellites, a geomagnetic storm occurred and 40 of them broke.
There is another problem associated with geomagnetic storms. The movement of satellites and any other objects in low Earth orbit, including space debris, is monitored by the US Space Surveillance Network. According to experts, there are currently about 20 thousand objects larger than 10 cm in orbit.
The Space Surveillance Network keeps satellites safe from space debris and creates daily warnings for the companies that own the satellites so they can take action in the event of a threat.
But during strong geomagnetic storms, experts are practically powerless in accurately predicting the flight path of such objects. Therefore, satellites not only could be directly affected by the geomagnetic storm, but could also fail due to inaccurate data, leading to a collision, scientists warn.
For example, space weather expert Tamita Skov, suggested that a recent geomagnetic storm may have disabled one of the Starlink satellites. She even posted a photo of an object flying in the sky.
“Number of different objects on orbit has quadrupled over the past 20 years, so the risk of collisions is growing exponentially. Now satellites need to maneuver more often in space to avoid this and this has never happened before, “says Tom Berger from Colorado State University at Boulder, USA.
Focus has already written about the seven most famous solar flares and geomagnetic storms that have hit the Earth in the last 150 years.