Magnetic storm disables oil production rig

On the night of February 27-28, a geomagnetic storm caused by solar activity was observed on Earth. Despite the fact that its power reached only the third category out of five, it forced SpaceX to postpone the launch of its satellites. And in Canada, due to problems with electronics, oil production has stopped.

The aurora caused by a geomagnetic storm. Source: MADS CLAUS RASMUSSEN/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP

Magnetic storm

On the night of February 27-28, 2023, the Earth was hit by a geomagnetic storm. It was mainly recorded over North America. It was due to a storm that the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was postponed for a while. It was supposed to launch a new generation of Starlink satellites into orbit.

In the end, the rocket was launched 4.5 hours after the planned launch. But the storm, which began at 1:13 a.m. on February 28, GMT+2, left many different consequences. Some of them, such as the powerful auroras observed in Europe and North America, were not bad, but the rest turned out to be extremely unpleasant.

For example, there were problems with electronics in many places. For example, Canadian geologists in Saskatchewan announced that their oil drilling rig had stopped working. 

Cause of the magnetic storm

The cause of all these problems was the coincidence of factors related to our sun. Firstly, right now a coronal hole has formed on it, “looking” directly towards the Earth. Because of it, a strong solar wind constantly blows on us.

Secondly, two coronal mass ejections occurred next to it on February 26 and 27. Large pieces of the Sun were torn off from it and flew again in our direction. When all these charged particles reached the Earth’s magnetosphere and a magnetic storm arose.

At the same time, it was only the third category out of five. Such occur up to 200 times during the 11-year cycle of solar activity. We haven’t seen really powerful storms of the fourth and fifth category yet. And this causes great concern among specialists.

Activity of the Sun is growing

Magnetic storms of the fourth and fifth categories can be fatal for satellites in orbit for several reasons. One of them is an electromagnetic pulse that temporarily or permanently interrupts communication with them.

The second is the “inflating” of the earth’s atmosphere. There are much more molecules near satellites, friction increases, spacecraft lose speed and, finally, go out of orbit. And the situation is greatly aggravated by the fact that we are now experiencing a boom in commercial space exploration, which has begun precisely during the solar minimum.

This cycle already looks much “angrier” than the previous ones. Its maximum will take place in 2025. As this deadline approaches, powerful magnetic storms will become more frequent. It is very likely that many companies may simply lose control of their spacecraft.

According to

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