Incoming


On June 21, NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) captured this image of coronal mass ejection (CME).  NOAA forecasters immediately issued aurora and geomagnetic storm alerts. Predictions of a 90% chance it would “catch up”, joining forces with 2 weaker CME eruptions from June 18 and 19 didn’t disappoint. Yesterday an impressive G4-class magnetic storm ignited auroras deep below the Canadian border.

Not over yet, the second image illustrates  “auroral oval” over tonight’s  northern hemisphere sky. NOAA predicts a 90% chance of widespread aurora activity June 23, diminishing slightly to 70% on June 24.

Meanwhile, sunspot AR2371 produced an impressive M6.5 flare credited with shortwave and low-frequency radio blackouts over North America. Click on the spaceweather link to learn more.

http://spaceweather.com/

We tend to think of auroras as winter phenomenons, accustomed to images of northern lights skipping across frozen tundra. Don’t be fooled, stars have no seasons.

June 21, 2015 full-halo coronal mass ejection, or CME, from the sun. It's an expanding cloud of electrified gas from the sun. Read more about CMEs. CMEs aimed at Earth are sometimes called halo events by scientists because of the way they look in these images, which are made by NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO

http://services.swpc.noaa.gov/images/aurora-forecast-northern-hemisphere.png

First Earth Directed X-Flare of 2015


Oh man, remember that aurora watch I told you about? Sunspot AR2297 hurled solar plasma in our direction on March 11, 2015 at speeds of 1,400 KM/second – 3.1 million MPH in case you aren’t paying attention. A powerful X2 flare (with a blast zone bigger than Earth) ionized upper layers of our atmosphere causing HF radio blackouts and the promise of kicken’ northern hemisphere Auroras.We won’t know until March 13 or 14 if the blast is truly Earth directed or just a glancing blow. Some sites credit it as the first “Earth directed” blast of 2015.

Either way, our planet won’t escape repercussions. In the past 5 days, AR2297 has taunted us with 7 “moderate” intentions. Do yourself a favor northern hemisphere residents – find a dark sky and welcome Aurora.

The first X-flare of 2015 from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory

Extreme ultraviolet radiation from the explosion ionized the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere, causing HF radio fade-outs and other propagation effects on the dayside of our planet. In the red zone of this map, ham radio operators and mariners may have noticed brief but complete blackout conditions at frequencies below 10 MHz.

http://earthsky.org/space/earth-directed-solar-x-flare-march-11-2015?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=5c6bd074e8-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-5c6bd074e8-393970565

 

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.

 

Solar Sector Boundary Crossing


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.

Aurora Alert Tonight


Ponder Earth’s magnetic field as a shield protecting us from harmful cosmic radiation. Known as “geomagnetic” because it starts at our solid iron outer core, (miles below the surface) and reaches to the outer atmosphere. (creating a magnetosphere, the point in space beyond the ionosphere where charged particles protect us from solar wind and radiation). Without it – our ozone layer would wither, and we would succumb to ultraviolet radiation. In other words, life could not exist.

When strong solar winds impact the magnetosphere, they “distort” our magnetic field creating “openings” – the near side to the sun being “compressed” and far side of the planetary field is bulged outward.

  1. As the charged particles of solar winds and flares hit the Earth’s magnetic field, they travel along the field lines.
  2. Some particles get deflected around the Earth, while others interact with the magnetic field lines, causing currents of charged particles within the magnetic fields to travel toward both poles — this is why there are simultaneous auroras in both hemispheres. (These currents are called Birkeland currents after Kristian Birkeland, the Norwegian physicist who discovered them — see sidebar.)
  3. When an electric charge cuts across a magnetic field it generates an electric current (see How Electricity Works). As these currents descend into the atmosphere along the field lines, they pick up more energy.
  4. When they hit the ionosphere region of the Earth’s upper atmosphere, they collide with ions of oxygen and nitrogen.
  5. The particles impact the oxygen and nitrogen ions and transfer their energy to these ions.
  6. The absorption of energy by oxygen and nitrogen ions causes electrons within them to become “excited” and move from low-energy to high-energy orbitals (see How Atoms Work).
  7. When the excited ions relax, the electrons in the oxygen and nitrogen atoms return to their original orbitals. In the process, they re-radiate the energy in the form of light. This light makes up the aurora, and the different colors come from light radiated from different ions.

http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/atmospheric/aurora2.htm

Two recent solar events – CME’s (coronal mass ejection) are poised to deliver Aurora magic in regions unaccustomed to their magnificence. Solar wind from the first eruption have arrived, with stronger consequences from the second ejection expected in the next few hours. What this means is Auroras could be visible far below normal latitudes. Some scientists project as far south as Mexico.

If you feel so inclined – go outside, cast your gaze northward, and watch for tell tale green ripples across the sky. Best time to view is between midnight and dawn – obviously clear skies away from city lights are advisable.

http://earthsky.org/space/significant-auroras-predicted-for-tonight-and-tomorrow?utm_source=EarthSky+News&utm_campaign=e4e54e437a-EarthSky_News&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c643945d79-e4e54e437a-393970565

Taken a few hours ago from the International Space Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

Electromagnetic Disruption Defense


I owe this ponder to http://violetwisp.wordpress.com/ for kindly alerting me to the effect of solar activity on our brain. Decades spent living in a rain forest left little doubt as to earthly weather’s impact on mood – SAD (seasonal affective disorder) a recognized affliction during gloomy west coast winter has doctors recommending sun lamps along with anti-depressants. It hadn’t occurred to me space weather played a part in mood.

The Pineal Gland in our brain reacts to electromagnetic charges. Solar flares and resulting CME’s (coronal mass ejections) are bursts of magnetically charged plasma hurled into space at mind boggling speeds. Our magnetosphere protects us from radiation, most of us blissfully unaware of geomagnetic storms, disrupted radio waves or power fluctuations. Poor pineal gland can’t do the same – highly sensitive to electromagnetic energy, it goes into overdrive producing excess Melatonin. Melatonin is a natural sleep inducing substance, our “circadian rhythm” goes haywire and grumpy, irritated, moody, depressed or anxiety ridden people emerge.

http://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/sftheory/spaceweather.htm

My interest in space weather has led to more than a few rolled eyes and jokes about tin foil hats. I’m not bothered by snickers, more frustrated and annoyed at those who ignore the power of the cosmos. I’m waiting for those same people to use “electromagnetic disruption” as a defense for bad behaviour.

Why So Uppity Mr. Sun?


The new year is arriving with a cosmic marching band. The sudden discovery of asteroid 2014 AA, a mere 24 hours before slamming the atmosphere and burning up over the Atlantic Jan. 2, now sunspot AR1944 is flexing gargantuan solar muscle.

This sunspot is so huge, it can be seen as a naked eye pock mark on the sun. Minding its manners for a day or two after showing up on Jan. 1, proved too much – AR1944 is in a tizzy, soon to be facing earth and by all appearances ready to kick ass. Waiting for a possible slap from a M4- class flare that erupted yesterday, could soon be over shadowed by a for more potent flare, coupled with AR 1944 facing earth.

NOAA scientists predict a 75% chance of M-class, and 30% of X-class flares within the next 24 hours. I know it’s difficult for those who don’t ponder solar activity to fathom the power of an earth directed super spot like AR 1944. I realize these predictions come and go, most often resulting in nothing more than a few airplanes altering course and spectacular auroras. Cry wolf enough times and soon nobody pays the slightest attention.

I think of these warnings as I would a tornado watch. All the elements are in place for a really bad day-it might take shape, or if we’re lucky just rain and hail like a banshee before the sunlight lets us get on with our day. Regardless, the warning is taken seriously and prepared for.

I’ve spoken about the Carrington event of 1859 till I’m blue in the face. If eyes don’t roll they glaze over as I recite the details; a solar flare witnessed by John Carrington, one that messed with our planet so much, telegraph stations burst into flames. A solar hit strong enough that if it happened today, could wipe out power for months. No cell phones, computers, ATMs, gasoline, water, heat, lights. Forget grocery stores or banks, forget your lights coming back anytime soon.

https://notestoponder.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/carrington-event/

So call me the little ponderer who cried wolf, or get your head wrapped around solar flares and all their ramifications. There isn’t a thing we can do to stop them, a major “event” will happen again – all we can do is get some emergency supplies together and not go bat shit when our precious cell phones go dark.A link to space weather warnings currently in effect, click on the colored symbols for descriptions….

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/alerts/warnings_timeline.html