The Day Earth Lost Half Its Satellites (Halloween Storms 2003)

Spaceweather.com

Oct. 29, 2021: Imagine waking up to this headline: “Half of Earth’s Satellites Lost!” Impossible? It actually happened on an October day in 2003.

Turn back the clock 18 years. Solar Cycle 23 was winding down, and space weather forecasters were talking about how quiet things would soon become when, suddenly, the sun unleashed two of the strongest solar flares of the Space Age. The first, an X17-category blast on Oct. 28, 2003, hurled this CME directly toward Earth:

Above: A CME heading straight for Earth on Oct. 28, 2003. The source was an X17-flare in the magnetic canopy of giant sunspot 486. Image credit: SOHO. Movie

Traveling 2125 km/s (almost 5 million mph), the cloud slammed into Earth’s magnetic field only 19 hours later, sparking an extreme (G5) geomagnetic storm. The storm had barely begun when the sun erupted again. An X10-flare on Oct. 29th created another…

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