Scientists have found that extreme solar activity drastically compresses the magnetosphere and modifies the composition of ions in the near-Earth environment. They are now challenged to model how these changes affect orbiting satellites, including the GPS system.
Under normal solar conditions, satellites orbit within the magnetosphere — the protective magnetic bubble carved out by Earth’s magnetic field. But when solar activity increases, the picture changes significantly: the magnetosphere gets compressed and particles get energized, exposing satellites to higher doses of radiation that can perturb signal reception. This is why monitoring and forecasting its impact on near-Earth space is becoming increasingly critical to safeguard daily life on Earth. One way to do this is by studying the physics of near-Earth space and observing the impact of such activity in time.