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Solar Storms October/November 2003

Solar Storms October/November 2003

29 October 2003

On the 24th of October 2003, the SOHO spacecraft registered a huge Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), emitted by the Sun. Several hours later this eruption reached the Earth and was detected by a number of spacecraft including Cluster.

Solar wind density and velocity measured by ACE on 24 Oct. 2003 at L1.

The Cluster spacecraft above the Southern polar cap when they detected the CME reaching the Earth.

Data from the Cluster ion spectrometer instrument (CIS) on 24 October 2003.

The ACE spacecraft, situated along the Sun/Earth direction, was situated about 1 500 000 km upstream from the Earth, monitoring the solar wind. At about 14:49 UT, ACE recorded a sharp increase on the proton velocity, which jumped from about 450 kms-1 to more than 600 km-1 . The proton density, which was about 3 to 4 particles cm-3 , increased to more than 20. The proton temperature in the solar wind at this instant was also multiplied by a factor of 8.

The four Cluster spacecraft were in the southern magnetospheric lobe, inbound towards their perigee. Note that the Sun, ACE, Cluster and the Earth were almost aligned when the CME was ejected from the Sun. Cluster was situated close to the inner magnetosphere (near to the ring current region) when it detected the effects of the solar wind pressure on the magnetosphere: The sudden increase of the solar wind pressure registered by ACE arrived at the Earth's magnetosphere about 40 minutes later. It provoked a huge compression of the dayside magnetosphere. The Cluster spacecraft detected this compression by getting suddenly out of the southern magnetospheric lobe into the Magnetosheath. They thus detected the Magnetopause, moving earthward, at about 15:25 UT. They remained into the Magnetosheath until about 17:00 UT, when they were only at a 6.8 RE (Earth radii) distance from the Earth. The transition between the lobes and the Magnetosheath was characterised by an important ion density increase (from close to 0 in the lobe to more than 160 particles cm-3 in the Magnetosheath) as well as a very clear signature in the velocity components, as measured by the CIS experiment onboard Cluster (P.I: Henri Rème).

This is a very unusual position for the Magnetopause, which on the average is standing ahead of the Earth at about 10 to 11 RE. Such compressions can have dramatic space weather effects, particularly to geostationnary satellites which are orbiting the Earth at a distance of about 6.6 RE. Further analysis of the four spacecraft data will tell us at what speed the magnetopause moved which will give information on the strength of the CME.

Contact points: Iannis Dandouras (, Claire Vallat ( and Philippe Escoubet (

Last Update: 1 September 2019
29-May-2024 12:59 UT

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