2003 Halloween solar storms

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Halloween solar storms, 2003
Composite image showing aurorae over northern Europe, taken by DMSP on October 30, 2003
TypeGeomagnetic storm
FormedOctober 2003 (2003-10)
DissipatedNovember 2003 (2003-11)
DamageElectrical faults and wear to various satellites
Power outagesSatellite communications blackouts; localized power outage in Sweden
Areas affectedWorldwide

The Halloween solar storms were a series of solar storms involving solar flares and coronal mass ejections that occurred from mid-October to early November 2003, peaking around October 28–29.[1][2][3] This series of storms generated the largest solar flare ever recorded by the GOES system, modeled as strong as X45 (initially estimated at X28 due to saturation of GOES' detectors).[4][5]


On Earth[edit]

Satellite-based systems and communications were affected, aircraft were advised to avoid high altitudes near the polar regions,[6] and a one-hour-long power outage occurred in Sweden as a result of the solar activity.[2] Aurorae were observed at latitudes as far south as Texas[2] and the Mediterranean countries of Europe.[6] Twelve transformers in South Africa were disabled and had to be replaced, despite the country's low geomagnetic latitude.[7]

On satellites and spacecraft[edit]

The SOHO satellite failed temporarily and the Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) was damaged by the solar activity.[2] Numerous other spacecraft were damaged or experienced downtime due to various issues. Some of them were intentionally put into safe mode in order to protect sensitive equipment.[6] Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) had to stay inside the more shielded parts of the Russian Orbital Segment to protect themselves against the increased radiation levels.[8]

Emissions from the CME were later observed by the Mars Odyssey spacecraft orbiting Mars, Ulysses spacecraft near Jupiter, and the Cassini spacecraft en route to Saturn. In April 2004, Voyager 2 was also able to detect them as they reached the spacecraft.[8]


Various data recorded during the Halloween solar storms

One of the solar storms was compared by some scientists in its intensity to the Carrington Event of 1859.[9]

These events occurred during solar cycle 23, approximately three years after its peak in 2000, which was marked by another occurrence of solar activity known as the Bastille Day event.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Magnetic Storm of Halloween 2003". United States Geological Survey: Science Features. October 15, 2013. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "NASA - Halloween Storms of 2003 Still the Scariest". NASA/SOHO. October 27, 2008. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  3. ^ Balch, Christopher; et al. (2004). Service Assessment: Intense Space Weather Storms October 19 – November 07, 2003 (PDF). NOAA Technical Memorandum. Silver Spring, MD: Department of Commerce.
  4. ^ "2003 Halloween solar storms, sunspot region 2192". SpaceWeatherLive.com. October 28, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  5. ^ "Biggest ever solar flare was even bigger than thought". SpaceRef.com. American Geophysical Union. March 15, 2004. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c NOAA Technical Memorandum OAR SEC-88: HALLOWEEN SPACE WEATHER STORMS OF 2003 (PDF). Boulder, Colorado: NOAA Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research. June 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 28, 2011.
  7. ^ Solar storm risk to the north American electric grid (PDF). Lloyd's of London and Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc. input from Homeier, Nicole; Horne, Richard; Maran, Michael; Wade, David. Lloyd's of London. 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 5, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2019.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ a b Levin, Eric (January 2, 2005). "2003 Halloween Storms Still Rock Solar System". Discover. Retrieved May 15, 2014.
  9. ^ Cid, Consuelo; E. Saiz; A. Guerrero; J. Palacios; Y. Cerrato (2015). "A Carrington-like Geomagnetic Storm Observed in the 21st Century". J. Space Weather Space Clim. 5 (A16): A16. arXiv:1505.07028. Bibcode:2015JSWSC...5A..16C. doi:10.1051/swsc/2015017. S2CID 59019585.