Recent cosmic events leave my hoping more eyes have been opened to ponder the skies above. My enthusiasm for space weather should not be misinterpreted as fear, dread, or doomsday hype. Rather; something to view as scientific fact. Space has weather systems that effect our planet just as the jet stream or ocean currents.
Our sun packs a punch that could lead to a pretty bad time.I cite the Carrington event and Bastille Day event till blue in the face – most people have no idea what I’m talking about. Air-planes regularly change course to avoid solar radiation, radio and cell phone signals are the first weak link at the mercy of geo-magnetic energy, and auroras dance to the beat of solar drums.
Sunspot AR 1678 didn’t exist a few days ago, but in the past 48 hours has mushroomed to a behemoth 6 times wider than earth. NASA predicts a 45% chance of M-class flares, and 15% of an X-class flare in the next 24 hours. Solar wind is blustery at over 400 Km/second. The wind alone will be responsible for incredible light shows for those lucky enough to live in the Northern Hemisphere. Expect magical Northern Lights fuelled by magnetic blasts from the sun.
I don’t understand why space weather has been delegated to the realm of science fiction. I believe this science fact should be basic education; reported by weathermen on the six o’clock news. I’m getting tired of the rolled eyes and the dismissive “that’s interesting” any time I open my mouth on the subject.
Preparing for earthquakes and other natural disasters are second nature. They are unavoidable – accepted as a fact of life. An earth directed X-class flare should be no different. Equally inevitable, and just as devastating.
On Dec. 17 a massive coronal hole opened up on the surface of the sun. It unleashed some impressive solar winds. Currently solar wind speed is 470 Km/second. Located in the southern hemisphere of the sun, the impact of the wind will not be earth directed for now. Depending on how long this coronal hole acts up, it may be earth directed in the next few days.
In 1859, British astronomer Richard Carrington witnessed a huge solar flare. The following day, Northern Lights were visible in Cuba, telegraph stations sparked and caught on fire. It was so bright you could read a newspaper at night by the light in the sky. If a similar “event” happened today, we could expect to be in the dark ages for months, maybe even years. Ponder – life without TV, cell phones, internet, heat, light, or gasoline (the pumps are electric) Imagine, no ATM. Imagine life without everything we take for granted.