Solar physicists still speak with awe of the Bastille Day storm of July 14, 2000, when so much energy was emitted that the Northern Lights were seen in Texas, and the Global Positioning System was thrown out of action for hours.
The current calm, however, means that the solar wind is less powerful than it has been for half a century. In turn, that has caused the ionosphere to sink to levels never before measured. At night, the atmosphere now ends – and the void begins – about 250 miles above our heads; which is far less than its average of around 400 miles. For all of us, space is a lot closer than it was at the start of the Space Age.