STEREO Reveals Solar Storm Related to Failure Aboard Communications Satellite

July 7, 2010
The left and center panels are NASA STEREO images of the April 3, 2010 solar coronal mass ejection about eleven hours after its inception, as viewed from STEREO-A and STEREO-B respectively. The right panel is a three-dimensional reconstruction of the morphology of the event, consisting of a flux rope with a shock wave driven in front of it [Brian Wood, NRL].

( -- Observations from NASA's twin Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft have allowed Naval Research Laboratory scientists to see recent solar activity that may have produced the first casualty of the new solar cycle #24. A coronal mass ejection from April 3, 2010 apparently resulted in a critical failure on the Galaxy 15 communications satellite, as reported by Space News on April 20.

Coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, are powerful eruptions of plasma and magnetic energy from the Sun's , or corona. When these sudden outbursts are directed toward Earth, they can have both breathtakingly beautiful and potentially damaging effects.

The recent sequence of space weather events started with a moderate and prominence eruption from solar active region 1059, at 9:04 UT on April 3, 2010. A CME associated with this eruption was subsequently observed by NRL's Space Science Division (SSD) developed solar ultraviolet imagers, white light coronagraphs, and heliospheric imagers onboard the NASA STEREO satellites, explains NRL's Brian Wood.

A "halo" CME was concomitantly observed by the NRL-developed LASCO coronagraph on the SOHO spacecraft that is located at the Lagrangian L1 point between the Sun and the Earth, an appearance indicating that the CME was headed straight for our planet. The imagers on the two (STEREO-A and STEREO-B), orbiting roughly 70° ahead and behind Earth respectively, were able to track this geoeffective CME continuously from its inception at the surface of the Sun all the way to Earth, which the CME struck on April 5, 2010.

The unique lateral views provided by STEREO were ideal for studying the kinematics and morphology of the developing event, explains Dr. Russell Howard, principal investigator for SECCHI, aboard STEREO. The accompanying figure shows stereo imagery from the heliospheric imagers on the two STEREO spacecraft approximately 11 hours after its inception, when it was about 50 solar radii from Sun-center. These and other STEREO images enabled a three-dimensional reconstruction of the CME morphology, consisting of a croissant-shaped "flux rope" structure with a shock wave driven in front of it.

The STEREO images suggest that the CME was traveling at a velocity of ~1000 km/s close to the Sun, and that it gradually decelerated to ~700 km/s by the time the CME impacted the Earth. Consistent with these measurements, in-situ instruments on board the NASA ACE spacecraft, also at L1, observed at 7:51 UT on April 5 an interplanetary shock traveling with a solar wind velocity of ~750 km/s. A moderate geomagnetic storm was induced by this geoeffective CME after the shock hit the Earth, shrinking the subsolar magnetopause from ~10 Earth radii to ~6.5 Earth radii.

Explore further: STEREO Reveals the Anatomy of a Solar Storm in 3D

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not rated yet Jul 08, 2010
This shows how vulnerable our technology-dependent society is to the whims of the Sun. Yet no one seems to be seriously preparing for a really big solar storm like the Carrington Event that could destroy power grids and much of our electronic infrastructure.
1 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2010
I have a neighbor that professes to be the father of cell phones (goes to show you), he thinks all this stuff is a bunk.

We had an electrical fire that coincided with the 1087 solar flair. The fire was in a hot wire copper interconnection that had corroded. He thinks I am crazy to show there may be cause and effect. The hot wire melted at 2000 degrees F with no short and no unusual load. The land line phone went dead for 15 minutes too. Like a circuit breaker in the phone lines kicked in. Coincidence? Our house might have burned down had I not been there to shut the power off.

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