Denmark – According to a study conducted by NASA Jet Propulsion Library, the University of IllinoisTechnical University of Denmark (DTU), and the University of Brunswick, solar storms leave large portions of the Earth atmosphere without electrons and also can impact communication systems on Earth.

The research team woking at the Technical University of Denmark aimed to find the impact of solar storms on communication and navigation systems on Earth, analyzing data collected during a major solar storm in 2014.

As the atmosphere reaches space, it becomes thinner. Image Credit: TES

The results of this new research were published in the scientific journal Radio Science. “It’s a surprising discovery that we hadn’t anticipated. We can see that it happens, but we don’t know why. However, other data from Canada indirectly support our new observations” said Professor Per Hoeg from DTU Space to Perfscience.

“With the help of the measurements from solar storms over the Artic recorded in 2014, it was analyzed that the electrons got removed from the atmosphere from areas that extended over 310 miles to 612 miles. It takes place just south of an area with heavy increases in electron density, known as patches” said Hoeg.

Eruptions produce solar storms on the Sun’s surface, these explosions send clouds of electrically charged particles towards Earth, creating the storms that – among other things – can trigger the Northern Lights over the Artic regions. However, the onset of these solar storms can negatively impact the navigation system, as well as the communication systems’ efficiency at higher altitudes.

During solar storms, electrons are usually sent into part of Earth’s atmosphere (the ionosphere). It happens because the magnetic field created by the eruption on the Sun interferes with the Earth’s magnetic field. It opens up to allow particles and electrons to penetrate the ionosphere. It is a known phenomenon, but it turns out that electrons at the same time disappear from large areas, which has not been demonstrated earlier.

Hoeg also mentioned in the article that due to the creation of the high burst, which is the result of the solar winds, the magnetic field undergoes major alterations in the region between the magnetic field of the Earth and solar winds, which in turn is a catalyst for energy bursts.

“The forerunner to the phenomenon is a violent eruption on the Sun’s surface, also known as coronal mass ejections or CME, where bubbles of hot plasma and gas in the form of particles, electrons, and a magnetic field are hurled in the direction of the Earth,” he noted

When the magnetic field from solar eruptions hits the Earth’s magnetic field in the ionosphere, their force fields are mixed. Consequently, unstable areas are created in the Earth’s ionosphere, extending over large areas near the North Pole. This gives rise to surging powerful Northern Lights and creates turbulent conditions.

The main reason for conducting this research was to understand the solar storms, which impact satellite signals efficiency. Solar storms are known to affect GPS signals, damages radio signals and power cuts can occur due to these solar storms.

“Our work can contribute to making navigation more reliable during ionospheric storms in the Arctic region,” said Durgonics. “Our new research has enabled us to identify a number of critical factors that affect the quality of satellite-based navigation, and to assess the probability of when these factors may occur.” He said.

The risk of disruptions in the ionosphere is one of the reasons why no regular flights are made over the Arctic, although this would shorten air travel between Europe and America. The high-frequency signals used by commercial flights over Greenland will be subject to interference during solar storms. The ability to predict and take into account these kinds of conditions is important for future commercial air traffic in the region. The same applies to marine traffic in the Arctic.

Professor Høeg hopes that the work conducted at DTU Space will contribute to the development of communication and navigation systems that can take into account conditions during solar storms to ensure safe flights and sail in the polar cap areas – in addition to ensuring more knowledge about the phenomenon.

DTU Space is currently participating in several research projects under ESA and the EU’s Horizon 2020 program which develop systems that can handle the conditions during space weather and solar storm conditions for aviation and marine traffic, among other things.

Source: Lake County News