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Protection « Solar Storm
Solar Storm

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Protection

We previously saw that we couldn’t accurately forecast the arrival of a sun storm. However, thanks to solar cycles (and so to the number of sunspot), it is possible to know comfortably if a solar storm can touch the Earth. So several measures can be set.

At the domestic level

Regarding the precautions to take at the domestic level, many reports as « Today’s home owner »’s , offers precaution lists in case of major incidents, however these shouldn’t be taken very seriously because they are really apocalyptic.

It is important to know that in case of a major solar storm, the electrical grid is turned off until the power generators take over.

However, immediately at the announcement of the solar storm, it would be necessary to unplug every electric device to avoid GIC impacts. .

On the global scale

• The Solar Shield program

In order to be prepared for a solar flare similar to 1859’s one, the NASA introduced a project called « Solar Shield ». Its goal is to develop, with satellites help, a way to protect Earth against the impacts of a solar storm.

Nowadays, some computers, developed during this program, are so powerful that they can predict the effects of GICs. The challenge is big, particularly for the electrical transformers and the electric grid. When a solar storm is about to hit the Earth, it is only needed to unplug this or this high-risk transformer for a few hours.

These precautions would prevent outages that can last for several weeks and get an entire continent into dark.

At the upper atmosphere scale

• Satellites

It is relevant to think that the satellites are better protected against solar storms. First of all, the construction is very expensive. This important budget allows satellite manufacturer to get advice from very qualified expert. During their construction, we try to increase their lifetime as well as their robustness. Indeed, satellites are naturally subject to important risks. They are continually hit by the solar wind and are therefore protected. Satellites constructors are aware of the incurred risks. Engineers are also looking to enhance the satellite’s shield. Researches were conducted by Lawrence Townsend (University of Tennesse) which show that the aluminium isn’t the best material for a spaceship. It isn’t an effective shield against radiations. Townsend’s team is looking for alternate materials such as polyethylene and impregnated carbon with hydrogen. An even of Carrington type would become less dramatic if another material than aluminium is used.

Moreover, if we manage to lower the satellite’s operating voltage, it would allow to avoid the damages caused by electrostatic discharges on the material. In order to avoid the loss control of the satellite, security navigation systems are planned.

• Astronauts

Each take-off, any exit in space is recorded. An astronaut can be prohibited to leave the space station if outdoor radiation levels are too high. The forecast of space storms can allow to control these expositions, for example by reprogramming the outs in space when there is a solar storm risk.