The solar storm that shook the solar system, know all about the shocking Bastille Day event | Tech News

The solar storm that shook the solar system, know all about the shocking Bastille Day event

On July 15, 2000, Earth suffered one of the worst solar storms in history. The storm, known as the Bastille Day solar storm, was so intense that the shockwaves were felt at the edge of the solar system by the Voyager spacecraft.

| Updated on: Jul 15 2023, 13:26 IST
Do all solar activities like solar storms, CME, impact Earth? This is what NASA says
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1/5 Sun is a source of energy and a lot of activities keep on happening on the fireball. But can Earth be impacted by solar activities? Before we tell you that, it is important to know what solar activity is? According to NASA, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, high-speed solar wind, and solar energetic particles are all forms of solar activity. All solar activity is driven by the solar magnetic field. (NASA)
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2/5 Solar flares impact Earth only when they occur on the side of the sun facing Earth. Because flares are made of photons, they travel out directly from the flare site, so if we can see the flare, we can be impacted by it. (Pixabay)
Solar storm
3/5 Coronal mass ejections, also called CMEs, are large clouds of plasma and magnetic field that erupt from the sun. These clouds can erupt in any direction, and then continue on in that direction, plowing right through the solar wind. Only when the cloud is aimed at Earth will the CME hit Earth and therefore cause impacts. (NASA)
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4/5 High-speed solar wind streams come from areas on the sun known as coronal holes. These holes can form anywhere on the sun and usually, only when they are closer to the solar equator, do the winds they produce impact Earth. (NASA)
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5/5 Solar energetic particles are high-energy charged particles, primarily thought to be released by shocks formed at the front of coronal mass ejections and solar flares. When a CME cloud plows through the solar wind, high velocity solar energetic particles can be produced and because they are charged, they must follow the magnetic field lines that pervade the space between the Sun and the Earth. Therefore, only the charged particles that follow magnetic field lines that intersect the Earth will result in impacts. (NASA)
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Know about one of the worst solar storms of the space age on Earth, the Bastille day solar storm. (Pixabay)

On July 15, 2000, the Earth was hit by an unexpected solar storm. The storm was sparked by a coronal mass ejection (CME) that was released after an X5.7-class solar flare erupted on the Sun. The terrifying event was witnessed by the NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, which was launched just five years earlier. But that was not the only NASA spacecraft to witness the solar storm. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, which was placed at the edge of the solar system, also felt the shockwaves produced by the flare eruption. Today, this event is known as the Bastille Day solar storm, and as it completes its 23rd anniversary, let us know more about it.

According to a report by, “Its impact on July 15, 2000, sparked an extreme (Kp=9) geomagnetic storm. By the time the storm subsided on July 16, 2000, auroras had been reported as far south as Texas, Florida and Mexico”. The report also revealed that the flare eruption released about 10 to the power of 33 ergs, or “about the same as a thousand billion WWII atomic bombs”.

The Bastille Day solar storm

The solar storm has been named Bastille Day because it coincides with the day when the city of Bastille fell in 1789. The day is also known as the national day of France.

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As the strong magnetic waves engulfed the Earth, the solar storm started off causing aurora display in even the lower latitudes, highlighting its strength. It also damaged many satellites and caused radio blackouts and communication blockades. As in 2000 mobile phones were still gaining popularity, the effect on mobile networks and internet services is not clear.

Today, this solar storm event, along with other terrifying events such as the Carrington event, are reminders that solar storms can get very terrifying very quickly, and their damaging effects are not to be taken lightly.

The tech that enables NASA SOHO

NASA's SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) is a satellite that was launched on December 2, 1995. It is a joint project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) to study the sun, its atmosphere, and its effects on the solar system. Equipped with 12 scientific instruments, such as an Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT), Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), LASCO (Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph), and others, SOHO captures images of the sun's corona, measures the velocity and magnetic fields of the sun's surface, and observes the faint corona around the sun.

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First Published Date: 15 Jul, 13:25 IST