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The Solar Cause of the 2022 February 3 Geomagnetic Storm that Led to the Demise of the Starlink Satellites

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
March 6, 2023
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The Solar Cause of the 2022 February 3 Geomagnetic Storm that Led to the Demise of the Starlink Satellites
Coronal environment of the eruption region (AR 12936) as viewed from an STA/EUVI 195 Å image when the eruption was in progress. The dimming regions D1 and D2 and a coronal hole (CH) of interest are marked on the plot. The bright structure in the active region is the PEA (see Figure 1). — astro-ph.SR

We report on the solar source of the 2022 February 3 geomagnetic storm of moderate strength that contributed to the loss of 39 Starlink satellites.

The geomagnetic storm was caused by the 2022 January 29 halo coronal mass ejection (CME) that was of moderate speed (about 690 km/s) originating from NOAA active region 12936 located in the northeast quadrant (N18E06) of the Sun.

The eruption was marked by an M1.1 flare, which started at 22:45 UT, peaked at 23:32 UT on January 29 and ended at 00:24 UT the next day. The CME ended up as a shock-driving magnetic cloud (MC) observed at Sun-Earth L1 and at STEREO-Ahead (STA) located about 34 deg behind Earth.

The geomagnetic storm was caused by a strong southward component of the MC that was boosted by a high speed solar wind stream behind the MC. Even though Earth and STA were separated by only about 34 deg, the MC appeared quite different at Earth and L1. One possibility is that the MC was writhed reflecting the curved neutral line at the Sun.

In-situ observations suggest that the MC was heading closer to STA than to Earth because of the earlier arrival at STA. However, the shock arrived at STA and Earth around the same time, suggesting a weaker shock at Earth due to flank passage.

Nat Gopalswamy, Hong Xie, Seiji Yashiro, Sachiko Akiyama

Comments: 14 pages, 8 figures, to appear in Sun and Geosphere
Subjects: Solar and Stellar Astrophysics (astro-ph.SR); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP); Space Physics (
Cite as: arXiv:2303.02330 [astro-ph.SR] (or arXiv:2303.02330v1 [astro-ph.SR] for this version)
Submission history
From: Nat Gopalswamy
[v1] Sat, 4 Mar 2023 05:27:46 UTC (1,119 KB)

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