Tag Archives: solar flares


Holy solar-driven demise, Batman. Look at those enormous sunspots.

1785 and 1787—the names for these two groups of spots—are pretty much staring earth in the face right now.

Sun spots are dark areas of intense magnetic activity that, when the activity gets super-intense, spit out energy in the form of solar flares or coronal mass ejections. The flares/ejections fire out clouds of magnetic energy and solar material into space.

And what happens when these things hit earth? Normally, we end up with more extreme aurora that are able to be seen at lower latitudes. But if the storm of magnetism is really strong, satellites can short out and power lines are disabled.

Considering we’re supposed to be at the peak of the current 11-year solar cycle, scientists are watching the spots carefully to see what, if any, flares and ejections they will emit and how screwed all of us electricity-dependent people will be.


TWSB: Death by Sunspots

We are so damn screwed when the sun decides to solar storm us to death.

In fueling my paranoia about our nearest star, I came across the Wiki article for the Carrington Event. The Carrington Event was a massive solar storm documented in 1859. In late August/early September of that year,  the sun produced a bunch of sunspots, solar flares, and a giant coronal mass ejection that motored its way to earth in just 17 hours (normal travel time = 2 to 3 days). It blasted our magnetosphere and atmosphere with enough force that auroras were seen all over the globe (including in the freaking Caribbean. Can you imagine?). This was the largest geomagnetic storm ever recorded.

Telegraphs all over the world failed, with some acting very strangely—sending and receiving messages even after they’d been disconnected from their power sources.

I did some more research and, as I’ve mentioned in my science blogs before, a lot of astronomers say that we’re overdue for another mega solar storm. Some are predicting what’s being called a “Solar Katrina”—a catastrophically huge solar storm that would, if it hit earth, knock out the entire planet’s electricity for weeks, possibly even months.

Can you imagine humanity suddenly reverting to pre-electricity conditions? I can’t even comprehend the chaos/panic/death that would cause. Holy freaking sunspots.

That would make good material for NaNoWriMo though…

This Week’s Science Blog: Lost In Space…Sort Of


First off, that picture’s badass.
Second, this is proof that we’re all going to be massively screwed in the coming year or so.

Apparently the sun gave off a massive fart (read: solar storm) and blasted the Galaxy 15 satellite out of radio operation. It’s still working, but is now drifting in one of two “gravity wells” that house a lot of our space debris.
Those in charge of monitoring such things as the crap we dump into the vacuum that surrounds us say that it’s not likely the Galaxy 15 will collide with other active satellites, but there is concern over the fact that its still-working communications package might interfere with nearby orbiters.
The plan? Either shoot it with lasers (ooh, big surprise there) or just wait until its orbit decays and it hurtles through the earth’s atmosphere to rejoin us. Here’s my question: are they certain Galaxy 15 went offline due to the solar storm, or was that just a coincidental incident? If it wasn’t, then we’d better get the gravity wells ready for a whole bunch of incoming defunct debris, as these solar flares supposedly aren’t going to be backing off any time soon.

And yes, I checked—apparently “zombiesat” is an actual technical term. Snazzy.


Today’s song: Consequence by The Notwist


So because I’m scared of the solar flares*, I’ve decided that I shall take on the task, over the next few weeks/months/whatever, of printing my blog archive. All 1,243 pages of it. Why? Reasons:

1.      Solar flares. You just never know.
2.      Computer crashes. You just never know.
3.      Having a hard copy of long documents is always a good idea.
4.      It’s fun.
5.      It’ll give me an excuse to buy a giant binder.
6.      At the end of it all it’s going to weigh about 15 pounds, which will make a good weapon against anyone who breaks into my apartment.

Maybe I’ll plan it out so that I can have everything printed by May 1, 2011 (with statistical projections as to how many pages total I’ll have then, of course), which would  leave me with a blog archive of the past 5 years of my life.

Scary? Yes.

Get the printer ready.

Today’s song: Circles by Soul Coughing

*We’re due for massive solar output in 2011-2012 that may possibly wipe out all satellite communication and god knows what else technology-wise for a half a decade or so. It’s just got me paranoid, shut up.

This Week’s Science Blog: Atmospheric Emotional Breakdown

So apparently the thermosphere just made a record collapse and is now on the rebound.

Wait, what?

The thermosphere, as you probably all know, is one of earth’s most outer atmospheric layers and lies between the mesosphere and the exosphere (for a bit more concrete perspective: the International Space Station orbits within the thermosphere). The layer helps protect the earth’s surface from ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Contractions and expansions of the thermosphere are not unheard of; in fact, the layer goes through an expansion/contraction pattern that generally follows the 11-year solar cycle—maximum solar activity = warming and expansion, lower solar activity = cooling and contraction. However, scientists have recorded the recent contraction as being the biggest one in 43 years.

Why? Many say it’s because the sun right now isn’t doing much (gearing up for those mega solar flares that we’re due to experience in 2011 and 2012, no doubt), but some suggest that the size of the collapse is too big to be caused by solar inactivity alone and can be at least partially explained by an elevated level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. However, even mega levels of CO2 are unable to explain the thermosphere’s dramatic shrinking, according to models.

So who knows what’s going on. It’s probably the next step in “we’ve screwed up our planet past any reasonable point of saving it.”

Today’s song: Paris (Ooh La La) by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals