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Huge solar storm impacting Starlink satellites, 'degraded service' reported: Musk

SpaceX founder Elon Musk says that a powerful geomagnetic storm hitting Earth is putting Starlink satellites under tremendous strain. The storm is the most powerful since 2003.

Elon Musk has said that the powerful geomagnetic storm hitting Earth right now is putting Starlink satellites under tremendous strain.

Conditions reached level 5 on the 5-point scale of geomagnetic activity on Friday evening, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) which says its satellites observed an "extreme" event -- the first such storm to reach that level since October 2003. 

"Major geomagnetic solar storm happening right now. Biggest in a long time," Musk wrote on X, formerly Twitter early this morning. "Starlink satellites are under a lot of pressure, but holding up so far."

Starlink, the satellite arm of Elon Musk's SpaceX, warned on its website Saturday morning that it was experiencing "degraded service," though it didn't give further details. Fox Business has reached out to SpaceX for comment. 

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The company has about 6,000 satellites in low earth orbit that communicate with ground transceivers delivering high-speed internet to customers. 

The inter-satellite laser links to pass data between one another in space at the speed of light, allowing the network to offer internet coverage around the world. Starlink owns around 60% of the roughly 7,500 satellites orbiting Earth and is a dominant player in satellite internet.

If satellites are impacted, they could disrupt navigation and communication services on Earth.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that a G5 geomagnetic storm can cause "widespread voltage control problems" and that some grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts. Electrical lines found in people’s homes are not understood to be at risk.

A geomagnetic storm, the agency says, is a major disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere and occurs when there is an exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth. It typically involves powerful solar flares known as Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) being emitted from the sun. At least seven have been observed since Wednesday.

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The storms result from variations in the solar wind that produce major changes in the currents, plasma and fields in Earth’s magnetosphere.

The NOAA says the storm is likely to persist over the weekend, posing risks to navigation systems, power grids, and satellite navigation, among other services. The last time Earth experienced a Level 5 geomagnetic event, there were power outages in Sweden and damaged transformers in South Africa.

The storm caused the skies across the U.S. to light up in a spectacular, colorful glow at levels not seen in years or decades as massive solar flares slammed into Earth on Friday.

Northern Light displays, typically relegated to states along the Canadian border during a typical geomagnetic storm, reached as far as the Gulf Coast, with pink, green and purple skies reported in Florida, Texas and Alabama. 

While conditions have since drifted back to a level 4 storm on Saturday morning, more geomagnetic activity is heading Earth's way over the weekend from additional solar flares, possibly lasting into early next week.

Fox Weather and Reuters contributed to this report. 

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