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June 14th, 2010, 11:46 PM
I saw the twilight Venus and crescent moon conjunction tonight and it was beautiful. The moon was golden and Venus was white and it looked like there was nothing else in the sky. They really stood out!

June 23rd, 2010, 06:56 PM
Absence of sunspots make scientists wonder if they're seeing a calm before a storm of energy

Sunspots come and go, but recently they have mostly gone. For centuries, astronomers have recorded when these dark blemishes on the solar surface emerge, only to fade away after a few days, weeks or months. Thanks to their efforts, we know that sunspot numbers ebb and flow in cycles lasting about 11 years.

But for the past two years, the sunspots have mostly been missing. Their absence, the most prolonged in nearly 100 years, has taken even seasoned sun watchers by surprise. "This is solar behavior we haven't seen in living memory," says David Hathaway, a physicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Rest here:


Interesting developments...

June 25th, 2010, 05:12 AM

Solar Storm Warning

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/06/24/2010-06-24_dire_warning_us_unprepared_for_massive_solar_fl are_storm_could_lose_power_commun.html

Dire warning: U.S. unprepared for massive solar flare storm; could lose power, communications

It may sound like the premise for the next Michael Bay, big-budget action extravaganza -- but scientists say a storm from space could change life on Earth as we know it.

And the United States is woefully unprepared for such a disaster, according to a new report.

The potential threat, detailed in a National Academy of Sciences, Severe Space Weather Events report, said radiation bombarding the planet from powerful solar flares could result in the loss of power, water and communications on a global scale.

"It's very likely in the next 10 years that we will have some impact like that described in the National Academy report," Dr. Richard Fisher, director of NASA's heliophysics division, told the Daily News. "Although I don't know to what degree

Fisher explained that the sun works on an 11-year cycle, and is now emerging from its quiet period.

The next phase -- the solar maximum -- lasts from 2012 to 2015. During this period of time, massive solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can occur which could be strong enough to knock out satellites, disable high-voltage transformers, and cripple communications worldwide.

June 25th, 2010, 05:14 AM
Doug Biesecker, top solar physicist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told the News severe solar storms have occurred in the past. The strongest was in 1859, and rendered telegraph machines useless. Another slightly smaller geomagnetic storm occurred in 1921.

"If the 1921 storm happened today, it would knock out power from Maine to Georgia," Biesecker said. It would affect "130 million people and 350 transformers."

Transformers, he noted, can take over a year to fix and are not made in the U.S.

"This raises all kinds of geopolitical issues," said John Kappenman, a principal of Storm Analysis Consultants and the lead technical expert for a study conducted by the Metatech Corp. on the potential impact of solar storms.

"If the blackout affected more than one country, the U.S. would not necessarily be the first in line to get one," he said, noting that transformers are made in Europe, Brazil, China and India.

In addition, it would take a well-trained crew to install new transformers, which weigh more than 100 tons and would need to be shipped via ocean liners.

Just getting them here "could drag on for several weeks if the transportation sector is compromised," Kappenman said.

Unlike a hurricane, Kappenman said the aftermath of a solar storm could be widespread, with 50% to 75% of the country affected. "We could have a blackout like never before," he said. It took only a few days to get back to normal after the 1977 or 2003 blackouts. "This time, you might not get back to normal at all."

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/06/24/2010-06-24_dire_warning_us_unprepared_for_massive_solar_fl are_storm_could_lose_power_commun.html#ixzz0rr2gjC hG

June 25th, 2010, 05:15 AM
There would also likely be no immediate help from neighboring areas, and big cities such as New York would be hit especially hard "You couldn't evacuate," he said. "Where do you put 8 million people?"

A severe blackout would have rapidly deteriorating effects. Without electricity, there would be a loss of potable water and the ability to pump sewage. Perishable food and medication would be lost.

"There are 100 million type 1 diabetes sufferers in the U.S.," he said. "Health issues would emerge in just a matter of days."

Telecommunications have a backup for about 72 hours before they degrade. Similarly, hospitals have about a week's worth of backup power. Nuclear reactors typically have a week of standby diesel fuel. Even if they shut down, they still require electricity to circulate cooling water through the reactor. "This could be a serious problem for 70 or so large reactors," Kappenman said.

"We obsess over oil," said Kappenman, "but electricity is twice as important."

An even a smaller storm could still wreak havoc. GPS satellites are particularly vulnerable to solar flares. Loss of a satellite could lead to problems with airline flights and communications. Computer systems measure time using GPS.

Oil rigs use GPS and water jets to maintain their offshore position as they drill. "They could drop off," said Biesecker, "and break a pipe."

July 11th, 2010, 07:23 AM

SOUTH PACIFIC ECLIPSE: On Sunday, July 11th, the new Moon will pass in front of the sun, producing an eclipse of rare beauty over the South Pacific. Best observing sites include Easter Island, the Cook Islands, the waters off Tahiti, and southern parts of Chile and Argentina. Stay tuned for images from the path of totality

SOLAR BLAST: On July 9th, magnetic fields overlying sunspot 1087 became unstable and erupted. The explosion emitted a bright flash of UV light (a C3-class solar flare) and hurled a massive plume of hot plasma away from the sun

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded the 1.5-hour time-lapse movie beginning at 1950 UT. SDO has been busy since sunspot 1087 materialized two days ago, recording B- and C-class flares every few hours. So far none of the eruptions has been Earth-directed, but this could change in the days ahead as the active region turns to face our planet. Stay tuned for space weather.

more images: from Cai-Uso Wohler of Bispingen, Germany; from Jan Timmermans of Valkenswaard, The Netherlands; from Didier Favre of Brétigny-sur-Orge, France; from Peter Desypris of Syros, Greece; from Andreas Murner of Rosenheim, Bavaria, Germany

Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 279.2 km/sec
density: 5.4 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1105 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B3 1100 UT Jul11
24-hr: B3 1100 UT Jul11
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1105 UT

Sunspot number: 18
What is the sunspot number?
Updated 10 July 2010

Spotless Days
Current Stretch: 0 days
2010 total: 35 days (18%)
2009 total: 260 days (71%)
Since 2004: 803 days
Typical Solar Min: 486 days
explanation | more info
Updated 10 July 2010

The Radio Sun
10.7 cm flux: 80 sfu
explanation | more data
Updated 10 July 2010

August 3rd, 2010, 06:03 AM

COMPLEX ERUPTION ON THE SUN: On August 1st, the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more.

The movie recorded by extreme UV cameras onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows an enormous magnetic filament breaking away from the sun. Some of the breakaway material is now en route to Earth in the form of a coronal mass ejection (CME, movie).

Seeing the sun erupt on such a global scale has galvanized the international community of solar physicists. Researchers are still sorting out the complex sequence of events and trying to understand why they all happened at once. Stay tuned for more movies and analyses in the days ahead.

SUNSPOT SUNRISE: Sunspot 1092, a key player in the Earth-directed eruptions of August 1st, is big enough to see without the aid of a solar telescope.

Daily Sun: 03 Aug 10

Sunspot 1092 is facing almost directly toward our planet. Any eruptions from this active region will be Earth-directed. Credit: SDO/HMI

August 3rd, 2010, 06:06 AM
The sun sends a charged cloud hurtling our way


An unusually complex magnetic eruption on the sun has flung a large cloud of electrically charged particles towards Earth. When the cloud hits, which could be anytime now, it could spark aurorae in the skies around the poles and pose a threat to satellites – though probably not a particularly severe one.

On 1 August, a small solar flare erupted above sunspot 1092. It would not have raised many eyebrows, except that a large filament of cool gas stretching across the sun's northern hemisphere also chose that moment to explode into space.

Despite being separated by hundreds of thousands of kilometres, the two events may be linked. Images from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory hint at a shock wave travelling from the flare into the filament. "These are two distinct phenomena but they are obviously related," says Len Culhane, a solar physicist at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London.

Satellite threat
Filaments are gigantic tubes of magnetism that fill up with solar gas and hang in the atmosphere of the sun. This particular one spanned 50 times the diameter of our planet before it burst. It then spilled its contents into space, producing a cloud of electrically charged particles known as a coronal mass ejection.

When the cloud hits our planet, as will happen any day now, satellites could be affected. A gust of solar particles in April may have been responsible for putting Intelsat's Galaxy 15 permanently out of action.

In the grand scheme of solar things, this is not a big eruption. The sun is currently rousing from an unusually extended period of quiet. "If the solar activity continues to rise, then in three to four years this will be seen as a comparatively normal event," says Culhane.

August 3rd, 2010, 12:34 PM
Wow. Thank you for all this information! This is surreal! (lack of a better word, sorry...) :hehee

I'm an extreme lay person when it comes to space weather, but a few articles lately have caught my eye in that it appears our sun is waking up after a long slumber and it's waking with a vengence! Auroras? Communication outages possible? Sort of like an EMP I'm guessing in that the makeup of the 'force' is magnetic?

Thanks for putting all this complex information on the 'lower shelves' for we lay people to understand! Keep the info coming as we watch and wait...

Your Sister in Christ, derlinder :hug

August 12th, 2010, 08:15 AM
SUNSET PLANET SHOW: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. Venus, Mars, Saturn and the crescent Moon are having a lovely 4-way conjunction. It's a great way to warm up for the Perseid meteor shower, which peaks on Thursday night, August 12th. Get the full story from Science@NASA. Sky maps: August 12, 13.

PERSEID METEOR SHOWER: The annual Perseid meteor shower is underway. According to the International Meteor Organization, dark-sky observers are now counting more than 35 Perseids per hour, including many fireballs. Be alert for Perseids from 10 pm on Thursday, Aug. 12th, until sunrise on Friday, Aug. 13th. The darkest hours before dawn are usually best.

Daily Sun: 12 Aug 10

Sunspot 1093 is splitting in two. Readers with solar telescopes should take a look

SUNSPOT TWINS: Sunspot 1093 is splitting in two. "Pass the cigar," says photographer Alan Friedman, "it's twins!" He sends this picture from his backyard observatory in Buffalo, New York:

During the past 48 hours, the dark core of the sunspot has divided itself into two Earth-sized pieces. The process resembles cellular mitosis. Whether this event heralds the breakup and eventual quieting of the active region--or conversely, a multiplication of its size and activity--remains to be seen.

Current conditions
Solar wind
speed: 335.4 km/sec
density: 0.9 protons/cm3
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at 1205 UT
X-ray Solar Flares
6-hr max: B1 1035 UT Aug12
24-hr: B2 0035 UT Aug12
explanation | more data
Updated: Today at: 1200 UT