If a satellite covered with a thick layer of copper, were to go straight through a solar storm in the opposing direction, would the satellite produce electricity, provided the copper(or other suitable material) doesn't melt? Could the satellite harvest this energy? Can this be used to study solar storms further?

in my opinion it should, by laws of electromagnetic induction, but I am asking this to know whether it would be practically possible?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ By 'Solar Storm', do you mean a Geomagnetic storm, or a CME? $\endgroup$
    – Everyone
    May 28, 2014 at 18:07

1 Answer 1


You need both a source and a sink to produce electric current by electromagnetic induction, otherwise you're really just a target at the mercy of the incoming energy discharge. So if you're going to have large static collectors in the way of high-energy electron flux of solar storms (pretty broad definition), you better have ways to use, store or convert all of that energy to some useful purpose, otherwise it's going to build-up on static charge and can damage your equipment by destructive electrostatic discharge.

But yes, the energy in solar storms, as you put it, could be converted into something useful, like electricity. Problem is, they're rather unpredictable in both time and intensity, and we can already convert solar radiation energy into useful forms with simpler, proven technology (e.g. photovoltaics), measure proton flux with various particle detectors, magnetic fields with magnetometers, heat with thermocouples, infrared sensors, ad infinitum. And then there's the use of solar radiation pressure for propulsion with solar sails, attitude control by magnetic fields with magnetorquers, even electrodynamic tether propulsion (PDF).

But all these systems have one critical thing in common: They can either be deactivated, protected, or the whole energy they collect is used, converted, stored or dumped so the electric fields don't build-up as static charge. The latter is a bit of a problem in the vacuum of space, and that's why such charged particle flux is really more of a hindrance to space exploration missions with precious and sensitive equipment onboard, so they rather try minimizing their potentially mission-ending effects, than consider them something worth waiting for. Unless you're actually measuring it, usually from a relatively safe distance and well protected, like SDO and the two STEREO spacecraft do while performing their heliophysics observations of our Sun.

  • $\begingroup$ @adch99 Just for reference to the OP, the Carrington event was apparently powerful enough to brown telegraph lines. The problem won't be generating electricity, the problem will be burning off the excess generated. $\endgroup$
    – Everyone
    May 28, 2014 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't the actual energy from solar radiation still vastly more? $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    May 28, 2014 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ @TidalWave, i know that through lenz's law either my probe will slow down or the solar storm (most probably the former) so the probe could keep boosting itself through electrodynamic tethers. this would prevent build up of static charge since electricity is getting used. it could be useful for quick missions to near sun bodies or maybe even jupiter, since we can control the boost direction. $\endgroup$
    – adch99
    May 29, 2014 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ It doesn't make much sense to me to wait for a random solar event to happen in the direction of the probe. And I'm still not exactly sure what you're referring to. If the solar storm comes with ejecta (CME), then it would have relative velocity in the order of about 1 AU in 2-3 days. That's not something you'd want to be in the path of, and the momentum transfer on impact, assuming it doesn't destroy your vessel, doesn't get you any closer to the Sun, quite the opposite. Could you please clarify the question? $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    May 29, 2014 at 14:29

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