Solar Bombardment

February 17, 2011

(PM UPDATE BELOW)

Run away, run away…but where?


(Illustration found here).

Last Monday, a huge event on earth’s sun occurred — called the largest solar explosion since 2006 — and sent massive super-charged bright sparks heading straight for the peaceful blue planet.
From Wired magazine:

As SpaceWeather.com notes, the sunspots didn’t even exist one week ago, and now cover a swatch of sun wider than Jupiter.
NOAA forecasters estimate a 45 percent chance of geomagnetic activity on Thursday, Feb. 17, when the bulk of the radiation hits Earth’s magnetic field.
The December 2006 storm was powerful enough to disrupt GPS systems.
Should the new storm prove as powerful, it could be a preview of what’s expected this year and in 2012, as the sun reaches an expected maximum in its natural cycle of activity.
There is, however, a silver — and green, and yellow, and glowing — lining to the flares.
In higher latitudes, where the sun’s ion spray is pulled by Earth’s magnetic poles, collisions between solar particles and atoms suspended in our magnetosphere produce photon sparks.
Together these form the aurora borealis, or northern lights, and it looks like Earth is in for quite a show.

The Spaceweather link above has other links to some awesome photos.
And the actual science lingo for the event has a touch of hummm to it — coronal mass ejection or CME — and is the sun’s most active part of its fiery cycle, aptly called “solar max.”
Despite all the rocket-scientist brains on the earth, we’re still an ignorant peoples — Professor Robert Lin of the University of California at Berkeley remarked in May 2005 during a solar storm, a comment telling on humans and that big, shiney thing there in the sky: “It means we really don’t understand how the Sun works,” Lin said.

Reportedly, this flare will not be as big as the one which erupted Sept. 1, 1859: Early the following morning, much of the world was witnessing a massive and tremendously bright display of the aurora, even at latitudes in the tropics. During the same time, telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed while spraying out sparks from telegraph poles and igniting widespread fires.

Due to some real stormy weather here in northern California, the big display won’t most-likely be seen, but just in case, don’t rely on technology to survive this particular day.
Ha! (Yeah, right!).

UPDATE

In early evening spotted this report via Raw Story — humanity dodged the bullet, or in this case, charged plasma particles: But the Earth appears to have escaped a widespread geomagnetic storm, with the effects confined to the northern latitudes, possibly reaching down into Norway and Canada. “There can be sporadic outages based on particular small-scale events,” said Dean Persnell, project scientist at NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory at Goddard Space Flight Center.
Apparently, these incidents can become catastrophic.
A 2009 NASA report titled “Severe Space Weather Events — Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts” warned that such a catastrophic event could cost the United States alone up to two trillion dollars in repairs in the first year — and it could take up to 10 years to fully recover.
An illustration of how fragile this so-called modern life.

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