Musk’s Starlink Service Affected During Earth’s Largest Geomagnetic Storm in 20 Years

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By Lydia Amazouz Published on May 11, 2024 13:00
Musk's Starlink Service Affected During Earth's Largest Geomagnetic Storm In 20 Years

Starlink, Elon Musk's SpaceX satellite arm, warned on Saturday of "degraded service" as the Earth was hammered by the largest geomagnetic storm caused by solar activity in more than two decades.

What is a Starlink Satellite?

Starlink satellites are part of a huge network orbiting the Earth that aims to deliver reliable internet connection around the world, particularly in distant locations. Their low orbit ensures faster data transfer rates and lower latency, which benefits a variety of industries, including GIS.

With more frequent satellite passes, they provide better data collecting, which is critical for following dynamic processes like urbanization and environmental changes, making them invaluable for decision-making in domains such as natural resource management and disaster response.

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Advantages of Starlink

Global coverage and low latency: Starlink's satellite network enables global internet access, particularly in remote locations, with little latency due to satellites in low Earth orbit, which is critical for real-time GIS data analysis.

High bandwidth and data transfer levels: Starlink's high bandwidth addresses the issue of sluggish data transfer rates in rural locations, allowing for the interchange of huge GIS datasets and therefore boosting the efficiency of cartographic mapping and spatial modeling projects.

Redundancy and reliability: The redundancy of Starlink's constellation assures consistent internet connectivity, lowering the danger of service disruptions, which is critical for uninterrupted GIS operations that rely on continuous data access.

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Improved Communication for Field Operations: Because Starlink's satellite connectivity allows field teams to collect and transmit geographical data in real time, field surveys and disaster response efforts become more accurate and efficient, as teams can communicate directly with central GIS databases.

Starlink Service Disrupted by Earth's Largest Geomagnetic Storm in Decades

Starlink owns over 60% of the 7,500 satellites circling Earth and is a significant player in satellite internet.

The thousands of Starlink satellites in low-Earth orbit employ inter-satellite laser links to transmit data in space at light speed, allowing the network to provide global internet coverage.

A statement on its official website stated: "Starlink is now experiencing impaired service. Our staff is investigating."

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Musk had stated in an X post that the Starlink satellites were bearing up.

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the storm is the most powerful since October 2003 and is expected to last into the weekend, causing dangers to navigation systems, electricity grids, and satellite navigation, among other services.

A geomagnetic storm, according to the agency, is a major disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by the interchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment around Earth. Typically, massive solar flares known as Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are produced from the sun. A total of seven have been spotted since Wednesday.

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Storms are caused by variations in the solar wind, which cause significant changes in the magnetosphere's currents, plasma, and fields.

According to the NOAA, the storm will likely last over the weekend, causing dangers to navigation systems, electricity grids, and satellite navigation, among other services. The last time Earth witnessed a Level 5 geomagnetic storm, power outages occurred in Sweden and transformers were damaged in South Africa.

The storm caused the sky over the United States to light up in a magnificent, colorful glow at levels not seen in years or decades, when enormous solar flares smashed into Earth on Friday.

Northern Light displays, which are usually limited to states along the Canadian border during a regular geomagnetic storm, were seen as far as the Gulf Coast, with pink, green, and purple skies recorded in Florida, Texas, and Alabama.

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While conditions have already returned to a category 4 storm on Saturday morning, more geomagnetic activity is expected to hit Earth throughout the weekend as a result of new solar flares, possibly continuing until early next week.

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An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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