Solar flares erupting from the sun are impacting satellites and causing them to fall back to Earth. Check details.
There have been frequent reports of the Sun ejecting numerous solar flares as it goes through its 11-year active cycle. These solar flares are proving to be dangerous for technological infrastructure in the skies. The situation has become so bad that scientists are now concerned that the recent solar activity is even causing satellites to fall back to Earth from the skies. For the uninitiated, according to NASA, a solar flare is an intense burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots. Flares are our solar system’s largest explosive events and they can last from minutes to hours.
According to the report by The Sun, we are currently seeing more frequent solar flares mainly because the sun is at the start of its 11-year solar cycle and in a very active phase. The Sun’s magnetic field goes through a cycle, called the solar cycle and every 11 years or so, the Sun’s magnetic field completely flips. This means that the Sun’s north and south poles switch places. Then it takes about another 11 years for the Sun’s north and south poles to flip back again, as per NASA.
The Earth’s magnetic field protects us from the damaging impact of most solar flares, but the really powerful ones can have tragic consequences. According to NASA, solar flares and eruptions can cause radio blackouts, impact electric power grids, Internet, mobile phones, navigation signals, pose risks to spacecraft and astronauts, and satellites.
The impact of solar flares on satellite communication is currently causing concern. The Sun says the European Space Agency (ESA) is worried about its Swarm constellation, which measures Earth’s magnetic field. ESA’s Swarm mission manager, Anja Stromme, told Space.com, “In the last five, six years, the satellites were sinking about two and a half kilometers [1.5 miles] a year. But since December last year, they have been virtually diving. The sink rate between December and April has been 20 kilometers [12 miles] per year.”
The sinking has coincided with the Sun’s extreme activity and it is generally accepted that fighting the harsh space conditions satellites will eventually fall back to Earth and burn up. And the current rate at which the satellites are dropping is a matter of concern, but there is little that can be done about it.