The solar winds are currently kicking up quite a fuss. As someone who pays attention to these things – trust me when I say that’s pretty fast. Solar winds cut loose when coronal holes open up on the surface of the sun; unfathomable blasts explode from their bellies. At the moment reported to be 585 Km/sec.
This got me pondering – how fast is that really? It translates to 1,308,607.73 MPH!
I talk about sunspots and solar activity a lot. If I had my way space weather would be included in the nightly weather reports. We prepare for hurricanes and massive snow storms, yet few people understand the implications of a healthy earth directed solar storm. A strong M-class or more powerful X-class solar storm could wipe out the power grid, plunging unsuspecting citizens into darkness.
A direct hit similar to the “Carrington event” of 1859 would be disastrous. Estimates range from weeks to months without electricity. Following a large earth directed CME (coronal mass ejection) we have 24 – 36 hours before repercussions are realized. Most often it passes without consequence. Airplanes change course to avoid high latitude radiation, auroras are incredible, and nobody even notices the disruption in high level radio waves.
That said; sunspot AR 1654 is kicking up a fuss. Solar wind is steady at around 400 Km/second, current estimates are a 60% chance of M-class and 5% of X-class in the next 24 hours. This sunspot is gaining strength and will soon be facing earth.
I’m not saying earth is on the brink of disaster, at least not from a sunspot. What I’m saying is we all need to think about implications of space weather. It’s only a matter of time before a really large solar flare causes serious problems. Spend a few minutes pondering what you would do; set aside emergency supplies, cash, and a positive attitude.
For those lucky enough to live in the northern hemisphere – be on the look out for some fantastic auroras.
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.
Every star, planet, and moon in the universe has its own weather patterns. Planets such as Jupiter have storms that rage for years. Massive dust storms on Mars, methane rain, lava flowing from the belly of ice planets, winds in excess of thousands of Km. per second – nothing unusual about this weather report.
Being an avid space weather person I’ve learned to watch the solar wind. My faithful watchdog spaceweather.com updates it every 10 minutes. Most people know about sunspots, how about coronal holes? Think of sun spots as Krakatoa and coronal holes as Hurricane Sandy.
Sept. 22 the fall equinox arrives. Earth doesn’t orbit the Sun straight up and down, it’s tilted on a rather wobbly axis of about 23 degrees. Twice a year the angle of orbit mirrors the angle of tilt resulting in the axis neither turning towards or away from the Sun. This is the equinox, the point at which Northern and Southern hemispheres switch seasons as the Earth continues along its endless path. At the equinox both hemispheres receive about the same amount of sunlight, their days and nights the same duration. Equinox is derived from the Latin words aequis meaning”equal” and nox meaning “night”.
Ancient cultures built mind boggling structures for the sole purpose of marking the equinox. Stonehenge and Machu Pichu are two of the better known astrological observatories tirelessly heralding in the equinox with scientific precision.
No active sunspots are brewing at the moment. We’ll have to settle for a little plasma rain. Plasma rain is actually moon sized droplets, falling from the Sun’s atmosphere to its surface. Far from anything we would recognize as rain, solar rain is electromagnetic energy kicking up a fuss.
This video from spaceweather.com was put together by Michael Burton of Ocean Beach California.
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.