Solar Sector Boundary Crossing Refresher


To those not inclined, enthusiastic gushing over Earth poised to cross a fold in the heliospheric current sheet on April 29/30 likely falls flat. That’s OK, twenty years ago I wouldn’t have understood a solar sector boundary crossing meant geomagnetic storm. Living in a state of gob smacked wonder over auroras, didn’t equate to comprehending how or why – shreds of murky high school science were of little use. Solar dynamic’s light didn’t flicker until the day I decided to figure it out from the perspective of one without a formal science education.

In October 2014 I wrote a post titled “Solar Sector Boundary Crossing”. If I do say so myself – a concise, accessible, easily understood window to the wonder of solar dynamics.

“Hang on for a lesson in solar dynamics – Earth is experiencing a solar sector boundary crossing. Let me explain….

The sun produces wind (currently 410.9 Km/second) that blasts across the cosmos. Just like Earth, our Sun has a magnetic field – known as the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF).  Whipped into a spiral rotation, wind driven IMF rotates in one direction. It divides into spiral sections pointing to and away from the sun along the ecliptic plane ( a direct line between Earth and the Sun). The edge of this swirling mass has a surface separating polarities of planetary and solar magnetism called the heliosphere current sheet.

http://spaceweather.com/glossary/imf.html

Earth’s magnetic field points north at the magnetopause (the point of contact between our magnetosphere and the IMF). If the IMF happens to point south at contact (scientific term, southward Bz) the two fields link causing partial cancellation of Earth’s magnetic field – in other words, opening a temporary door for solar energy to enter our atmosphere. Welcome solar sector boundary crossing – a phenomenon born of high solar wind and coronal mass ejections (CME’s – aka solar flares).

It takes 3 or 4 days for magnetism to sort itself out – in the meantime, and barring the occasional high frequency radio disruption,  wonky GPS and cell phones, peppered with sudden power grid failure events – we’re treated to kick ass auroras.”

http://wso.stanford.edu/gifs/HCS.html

Aurora Watch


For 3 days sunspot AR2297 has produced eruptions of solar plasma. Today a powerful M9 flare proved this sunspot has lots more to say. Radiation (able to reach our planet within 8 minutes ) swiftly impacted HF radio frequencies over the Pacific Ocean. Few people would notice blinky radio signals, Auroras are an entirely different matter.

Envy can’t begin to describe my dismay over residing outside the Auroral Oval – that sweet spot where Northern Lights dance with wild abandon. Yesterday found me grumpy over a CIR, (co-rotating interaction region) alert – transition zones between slow and fast moving solar winds that pile up solar plasma and spark auroras when impacting the magnetosphere. As if that wasn’t enough, AR2297 unleashed a M9 in case I wasn’t paying attention.

All I can hope is to live vicariously through those lucky enough to fall under Aurora’s spell. This is the weekend to welcome Aurora.

http://spaceweather.com/

March 7, 2015 M9 class eruption captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

 

Aurora Borealis


Today arrived with seasonal grumpiness – an unconscious, yet predictable mid winter moment when pining for Northern Lights took hold. They always find me – Auroras are like that. Caught in their spell – never letting go, knowing precisely what I need. I’ll let my family believe a trip to Saskatchewan is for them – Aurora knows better.

Aurora, Texas 1897


I love a good UFO conspiracy – not so much for the conspiracy as the legend and folklore surrounding it. Area 51 and Roswell, New Mexico fuel UFO speculation and government cover-up to the point of hysteria. I’ll admit; depending on your frame of mind or the conviction of believers – it does pose some questions.

Pondering UFO abductions, sightings or crashes is tricky business. It’s one thing to say you don’t believe we’re alone in the universe, another to state you buy into specific cover ups. I don’t believe we could possibly be alone, that said I find it difficult to digest many UFO theories being bantered about. Cautiously forging ahead – ponder Aurora, Texas in 1897.

On April 19, 1897 the Dallas Morning News reported an incident on April 17 in Aurora, Texas. A “cigar shaped” flying object hit a windmill and  crash landed on the property of Judge J.S. Proctor. Witnesses claim a single occupant perished; the body mangled and described as “not of this world”. A Mr T.J. Weems – U.S. signal officer on duty in the area – reported to conveniently be an expert on astronomy – declared Mars to be mystery ships’ home planet. Further evidence; papers found on deceased Martian contained script in undefinable hieroglyphics. A “Christian burial” scheduled the following day.

The incident was never mentioned in press again. Local legends tell of the mysterious metal craft partially buried with the “alien”, the rest tossed down Judge Proctor’s well. In 1945 the property was purchased by Brawley Oates who developed a acute case of arthritis after trying to clear debris out of the old well. Oates later sealed the well with a concrete slab and built a shed on top of it. The Texas Historical Commission erected a marker outside Aurora’s cemetery detailing the “legend”.

UFO enthusiasts, historians, and idle gawkers ponder events at Aurora with interest ranging from curiosity to conspiracy. Naturally no evidence exists – the legend lives on. Never mind original reports of a slow moving cigar shaped craft – think Zeppelins since they were the only aircraft of reference. Take folded papers containing Martian hieroglyphs with a grain of salt – obviously alien travellers carried note pads when crossing galaxies.

Hard as I ponder, I can’t think of one good reason why we need “proof” of alien visits. We can’t cope with our own nonsense let alone deal with ramifications of other worldly beings. Religion would bend it into utter nonsense, business would find ways to turn it into a cash cow and fear would make survivalist wing nuts look like the next best thing.

I’m perfectly happy in my belief we’re not alone – and equally convinced we couldn’t process the truth.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora,_Texas_UFO_Incident

Holy Sunspot Batman


Solar activity makes me giddy; I prickle with school girl excitement at the mere mention of an earth directed CME.  I knew the sun was getting a little uppity – a visit to http://spaceweather.com/ when I got home from work set my heart a flutter. Our sun has been busy – three flares between Oct. 20 – 22 have apparently merged into one; promising to light up our magnetic field with auroras. Another powerful M-9 class flare hurled earthward yesterday, arrival time as yet unknown.

Courtesy NASA – Solar Dynamics Observatory

Sunspots AR1875 and 1877 are ready to speak their minds – both strutting their stuff – ready to make a statement. Predictions of activity in the next 24 hours may not be earth shattering – 40% chance of M-class and 10% chance of X-class flares – still enough of a magnetic storm for ridiculous northern lights.

Meanwhile, Comet C/2012X1 exploded 450 million Km’s from earth. Of little significance to our little corner of the universe, yet worthy of a look low on the eastern horizon an hour or so before sunrise if you happen to have a telescope.

Solar winds are relatively low at 345 Km/second.

This concludes tonight’s space weather report.

Attention Northern Hemisphere Sky Watchers


This is not a warning, hysterical plea to take cover or recruiting post for the tin foil hat club – simply a heads up for Northern hemisphere sky watchers. Sunspot AR1865 sent an M1 class flare our way, it should reach earth’s magnetic field this evening. Not powerful enough to cause a bad day – even though it was earth directed – the magic is expected to unfold in spectacular auroras.

Those who have witnessed Aurora’s spell understand her soul restoring powers. Those who haven’t can only hope that one day she will allow you to witness her dance across the northern sky. If you happen to find yourself in a dark place, away from city lights; gaze upwards tonight – if you’re lucky, Aurora will dance for you.

NASA – AR1865

Notes is Away…..


I’ve made my way to Canadian winter .Snuggled inside a toasty old farmhouse –  anticipating snow and high winds overnight; I’m like a child on Christmas Eve. Peeking through the curtains every few minutes, straining to part darkness and receive the first furtive snow flakes.

Aurora watching has taken a back seat, though we were able to spot their faint whisper last night.