22 years ago today, Earth suffered one of the worst solar storms of the modern era, NASA tells us

On July 14, 2000, Earth suffered one of the worst solar storms in history, according to NASA. The storm, known as the Bastille Day solar storm, caused massive damage. Check details below.

Exactly 22 years ago today, an unexpected solar storm struck the Earth and wreaked havoc. Later, it was understood to be one of the worst solar storms of the space age. In fact, there has been only one more solar storm in 2003 that was stronger. Named as Bastille Day solar storm, this gigantic mass of coronal mass ejection (CME) affected the Earth for 48 hours between July 14 – 16, 2000. This solar storm has also been credited with helping NASA scientists in developing a deeper understanding of this ferocious solar activity and how it is produced and how to predict them. Now, 22 years later, as the Sun is moving towards another solar maximum (a period of highest solar activity) it is interesting to revisit this storm and know the damage it caused back then.

According to NASA, the solar storm was caused by an X5-class solar flare. For the unaware, solar flares are classified into A, B, C, M and X classes where A is the weakest solar flare and X is the strongest. The solar storm was born out of a large sunspot which had a darker core than usual, indicating that it was highly unstable. On July 14, 2000, it blasted out a solar flare which pushed out a large amount of CME towards the Earth. And that was just the beginning of the Bastille Day solar storm.

Bastille Day solar storm took place today, 22 years ago

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. 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 network and internet services is not clear.

But even then, NASA was already using all its capabilities to study the solar storm. It was going to be an opportunity for scientists to test out their theories. β€œIt fits a lot of the standard theories of how flares work. It was a really big event and it was right there in the center of the sun. We had some of the best instruments at the time looking at it,” Phil Chamberlin, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, told NBC.

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