Solar Storms and You!

Activity 16 : Solar Storms and Satellites


Solar storms have long been known to affect delicate electronic circuitry in satellites orbiting the Earth. Given that the commercial, military and scientific satellite resources exceed $200 billion dollars, the issue of satellite vulnerability to solar storm damage is both a serious consideration in satellite design, but also a highly controversial topic when specific instances are examined in detail.


Students will read to be informed.


A copy of "Forecasting Solar Storms" for each student
Student question sheet
A copy of "Solar Storm Eyed as Satellite Killer"
Student question sheet


  1. Students read "Forecasting Solar Storms" and complete the questions.
  2. Discuss the answers and the article.
  3. Students read "Solar Storm Eyed as Satellite Killer".
  4. Construct a graphic organizer to compare and to contrast the two articles. Some of the items mentioned in both are: $200 million Telestar 401 satellite, and the SOHO satellite. Both articles deal with the 1997 event, Stephen P. Maran's  quote, "This is the first time a solar event has been captured from cradle to grave", January 7 event, 3 3/4 days to reach the Earth, and other spacecraft that monitored the event.
  5. Complete the remaining questions.

Key Terminology

Coronal Mass Ejection: A sudden expulsion of matter from the coronal regions of the Sun with typical speeds of millions of miles per hour.
Magnetic sub-storm: A rapid change in a portion of the magnetic field of the Earth lasting hours to minutes.


Communication satellites can be affected by solar storms, and in the coming years there will be hundreds more placed into orbit. There are many uses for satellites in the 1990's, can you name some common applications?

Related Web Resources

Visit the IMAGE/POETRY Solar Storms:Hidden Menace article written by Dr. Odenwald to learn more about how solar storms affect our technology.

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This activity was developed by the NASA, IMAGE/POETRY 
Teacher and Student Consortium. 
For more information, and a list of other resources, visit 
the IMAGE/POETRYweb site.