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AURORAS IN THE USA: A coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth on Oct. 24th at approximately 1800 UT (2:00 pm EDT). The impact strongly compressed Earth's magnetic field, directly exposing geosynchronous satellites to solar wind plasma, and sparked an intense geomagnetic storm. As night fell over North America, auroras spilled across the Canadian border into the contiguous United States
Application to Heliophysics The solar wind is made up of plasma, i.e. a gas of charged particles, that constantly flows away from the Sun. Even when the Sun isn't experiencing a flare or a coronal mass ejection, a constant flow of electrons, protons, and ions moves through space and into the solar system. While many of these charged particles are deflected by the Earth's magnetic field, some do strike satellites in orbit around the Earth. While the strikes of individual electrons, protons, and ions are not damaging, over time, a static charge can build up on the surface of a satellite. If the charge becomes large enough, electronic components on a satellite will be in danger of shorting out. In fact, satellites are built to account for this problem, ensuring that such a charge does not build up on the satellites compononents. Thus, even the more "gentle" constant flow of the solar wind can cause problems with our space technology due to the build up of static electricity.