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Solar Activity and Space Weather
Highlights of Historical Space Weather Impacts.
Since the 1700s, there have been 28 sunspot cycles averaging 11 years in length, but for historical reasons, the first numbered cycle occurred between the years 1755 and 1766.
Cycle 23 (1996-present)
The October 28 (three-and-a-half years past solar maximum) solar
storm caused a blackout in Sweden, damaged two Japanese satellites and upset
radio and navigation systems for aircraft and ships, shut down a radiation-measuring
instrument aboard NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter. Damage was limited because
the storm had been forecast and electric utilities and satellite companies took
A number of communication satellites fail as a result of space weather events including Telstar 401 (January 11, 1997) and probably Galaxy IV (May 17, 1998). Tempo-2 satellite crippled on April 11, 1997. Adeos research satellite fails (September 20, 1997). Seven Iridium satellites fail between April and August 1998. Satellite insurance industry pays out over $800 million in claims for disabled satellites.
Cycle 22 (1989-1995)
March 13, 1989 Great Aurora seen as far south as the Mediterranian and Japan. Hydro-Quebec Power Company on Saint James Bay fails for 9 hours and black out Quebec. Many satellites are directly affected, and up to 1,300 objects tracked by NORAD shift their orbits significantly. Marecs-1 satellite fails on March 25, 1991. Anik E1 satellite fails and E2 crippled by a space weather event on January 21, 1994.
Cycle 21 (1976-1988)
No news reports of solar storms affecting satellites or electrical systems. No mentions of the December 1, 1977, March 5, 1981, March 18, 1981 or June 13, 1982 aurora in major news papers.
Cycle 20 (1963-1975)
August 2-3, 1972 Great Aurora causes voltage surges on telephone cable between Chicago and Nebraska. A 230,000-volt transformer at the British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority explodes.
Cycle 19 (1953-1962)
The February 24, 1956 storm causes a radio blackout that triggers a full-scale Naval alarm for a British submarine which was thought to have dissappeared.
Cycle 18 (1943-1952)
September 18, 1941 auroral display seen from South Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. February 2, 1946 a large sunspot group was seen with the naked-eye. International radio communication interference and a complete fadeout of transatlantic channels for three hours.
Cycle 17 (1933-1942)
March 25, 1940 solar storm disrupts all shortwave traffic between the United States and Europe. Temporary disruption of electrical service in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Quebec and Ontario.
Cycle 16 (1923-1932)
January 26-27, 1926, international wireless tests disrupted by aurora which caused electrical disturbances which also interferred with both broadcasting and telegraph services.
Cycle 15 (1913-1922)
The May 13-15, 1921 Great Aurora produced large earth-currents in the telegraph systems in England, Scotland and Ireland.
Cycle 14 (1901-1912)
September 25, 1909 Great Aurora affects English and US telegraph lines. William Marconi gloats that his wireless communication system is immune from solar disturbances.
Cycle 13 (1890-1900)
The Great Aurora of March 30, 1894 caused currents to flow on telegraph lines in London. First unintentional use of telephone lines to study magnetic storms.
Cycle 12 (1880-1889)
November 18, 1882 Great Aurora, telegraph wires in New York were useless for most of day. March 30, 1886 Great Aurora observed in London, China, Japan and India. Telegraph lines disabled.
Cycle 11 (1870-1879)
The Great Aurora of February 4, 1872 spawned a barrage of newspaper accounts of powerful voltages induced in telegraph lines. The first forecast of telegraphic interference offered in 1879 by astronomer William Ellis of the Royal Greenwich Observatory.
Cycle 10 (1858-1869)
A powerful solar flare seen by astronomer Richard Carrington on September 4, 1859 causes the first documented magnetic storm produced by an obvious solar event. In France, telegraphic connections were disrupted as sparks fly from long transmission lines.
Cycle 9 (1842-1857)
Earliest reports of telegraph disruptions. During the aurora of November 17, 1848, Mssr. Matteucci observed a new form of auroral disturbance. The electromagnetic armatures of the telegraph connecting Florence and Pisa remained stuck together as though they had become magnetized, even though the receiving apparatus was not in action at the time, and the batteries were disconnected. This could only happen if an electric current had flowed through the wires to energize the electromagnet. Subsequent experiments reported by A. de la Rive in 1854 using a galvanometer attached to telegraph cables in England, and by others in Germany and France, clearly showed that during auroral displays, not only do magnetic deflections occur, but currents flow in telegraph lines. Samual Schwabe discovers sunspot cycle. Edward Sabine discovers correlation with magnetic storms.
Cycle 6 and 7.
The earliest cycles, and their terrestrial effects, did little more than frighten and amaze. By the beginning of the 1800s, the first few sun spot cycles, Cycle 6 and 7, were singularly unspectacular affairs with fewer than 50 spots seen on the Sun's surface at the maximum of the cycle. This translated into dismal observing conditions for aurora except in the relatively uninhabited regions of northern Scandinavia, Canada, and Siberia.
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