AR3664 Is Different, But We’re Still The Same

4th Jun 2024
AR3664 Is Different, But We’re Still The Same

Sunspot AR3664, which unleashed the series of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) on May 10-11, is Earth-facing again. It’s breaking up, but still putting out X-class eruptions and causing minor geomagnetic storms. Oh, and it’s now called AR3697.

The return was noted in the general media. That’s good. What has been underplayed, though, is the story about what happened to systems that could have been affected both on the ground and in space. Satellites, electrical power infrastructure – plenty to worry about. Nothing went down permanently or got fried. Yea, us! So, where’s the pat on our collective backs?

After AR3664 hurled all this energy at us

Some amazing things happened. In an interview we’ll be publishing soon, we cover how a company managed to keep contact between data boxes and satellites during the storm despite having a very low power 400MHz transceiver on the box side. We’ve also found out a bit on the operations side how other companies protect their systems when elevated energy levels are expected. Starlink reported that their network was stressed, but after the event, also announced that the system was intact and operating.

Terrestrial power system operators also took measures. A power company in New Zealand took some of its capacity offline in order to protect it from the effects of the storm, and to ensure that if anything were to occur, there would still be some infrastructure that was untouched.

Let’s talk about it

We should not grow complacent now that we’ve survived one big geomagnetic storm. It’s important that there is more public coverage of how well our systems performed in the face of solar storms like those unleashed by AR3664. We need to discuss what should be done under even more difficult circumstances, and help the general public understand how important these things are. Furthermore, as an industry, there needs to be more press and more discussion about standards and acceptable outcomes. At Orbital Today, we’ll certainly look into it more.

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