10 spacecraft hit by massive solar flare, says ESA

10 spacecraft hit by massive solar flare, says ESA
The European Space Agency revealed that 10 satellites and probes were rocked by a massive solar flare as it swept through the solar system.

The space weather event, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), was observed by three satellites operating outside the path of the flare, namely ESA’s Proba-2, the ESA-NASA joint project SOHO and NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, in October 2014.

The ESA’s Olivier Witasse had been leading the space agency’s Mars Express, a project examining the effect of the comet Siding Spring on the atmosphere of the Red Planet. During the research, the team detected signs of the CME on Mars and, in the subsequent investigation, accessed data collected by the 10 spacecraft in its path.

“CME speeds with distance from the sun is not well understood, in particular in the outer Solar System,”said Witasse. “Thanks to the precise timings of numerous in situ measurements, we can better understand the process.”

The data gives an indication of the speed, distance and direction of travel of the CME, with the effects of the flare reportedly felt by NASA’s Voyager-2, then at the edge of the solar system approaching Pluto.

After emission, the solar flare travelled at speeds of up to 1,000km per second (6,000 miles per second) before slowing to 500km/sec after reaching the Cassini space probe in November 2014.  

Luckily, Earth was not in the CME’s path – a phenomenon that scientists say has potential to be hugely damaging to our way of life.

Experts have warned that a powerful geomagnetic storm would likely knock out power grids, communications and satellite technology, causing trillions of dollars worth of damage to the global economy. They even cite as evidence the 1859 ‘Carrington Event’ in which a solar flare knocked out telegraph systems all over Europe and North America.