George Mason University   

CSI 769/ASTR 769
  Topics in Space Weather

Fall Semester 2005

Projects (Last Modified: Nov. 28, 2005)

Project:  Sun-Earth Chain Activities in Halloween Storms


1. Objective

      The objective of this project is to help students comprehend the space weather system that involves energy and mass flow throughout the Sun-Earth connection system. It is a comprehensive end-to-end project that addresses various physical processes and their possible cause-effect relationships in different space weather components, including the surface of the Sun, the Sun’s corona, heliosphere, magnetosphere, and ionosphere.  

2. Requirements

       Students are required to observe and study the Halloween storms in 2003. The project consists of 4 phases, each of which has specific requirements:

  • Phase 1: physical processes on the Sun
  • Phase 2: physical processes in the heliosphere
  • Phase 3: physical processes in the magnetosphere
  • Phase 4: physical processes in the upper atmosphere and ionosphere
3. Introduction to Halloween storms in 2003      

       The source region of the Halloween storms is a strong and complex active region: NOAA AR 0486. Its configuration is classified as beta-gamma-delta that indicates it is extremely non-potential and contains a large amount of free energy. It passed across, or transited, the frontal solar disk from Oct. 12 to Nov. 04, 2003, producing 8 X-class flares and extremely fast halo CMEs with speeds of more than 2000 km/s. These fast CMEs caused extreme disturbances of solar wind flow. When impinging the Earth’s magnetosphere, extreme distortions of the entire magnetosphere including the radiation belts were observed. Extremely intensive geomagnetic storms and other space weather activities were induced.

      The 2003 Halloween storms had profound impacts. The international space station did a ground-commanded power down, and crews onboard took shelters in the service module during the peak exposure times. About 24% of the space missions turned off their instruments or took other protective actions. One Japanese satellite (ADEOS-2) is believed to have failed completely due to this storm. The NASA/ESA’s SOHO satellite and the German satellite CHAMP failed temporarily, while the NASA satellite ACE was damaged beyond repair.  Some satellite based communication companies (TV and radio) reported several short-lived interruptions. Airlines restricted flight paths on several occasions due to degraded communications. GPS users reported degradation and outages with some applications. A power grid in southern Sweden, experienced a one hour blackout. (Reference: http://www.magazine.noaa.gov/stories/mag131b.htm)