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Thread: Big Solar Event... Aurorae?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2001

    Big Solar Event... Aurorae?

    People are already buzzing about a pretty large Coronal Mass Ejection from the Sun. It won't hurt us directly, but may cause some radio interference, satellite damage, and things like that. Here is the press release:

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2003 14:03:43 -0500

    Release No.: 03-22
    For Immediate Release: 12:20 p.m. EST, Oct. 28, 2003


    Cambridge, MA- At approximately 5:54 a.m. EST this morning, a gigantic solar
    flare erupted from sunspot 10486 on the surface of the Sun. That explosion
    blasted tremendous amounts of energy and matter into space, sending a
    coronal mass ejection (CME) directly toward the Earth. That CME is predicted
    to create a major geomagnetic storm when it reaches our planet on Thursday.

    "This is the real thing," says John Kohl, a solar astrophysicist at the
    Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and principal investigator
    for the Ultraviolet Coronagraph Spectrometer on board NASA's Solar and
    Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft. "The eruption was positioned
    perfectly. It's headed straight for us like a freight train, so a major
    geomagnetic storm is bound to happen when it reaches us on October 29th or

    "Last week's CME hit the Earth with only a glancing blow," says Kohl,
    although it was sufficient to disrupt airline communications. "Today's
    eruption was pointed directly at us, and is expected to have major effects."

    "This is the strongest flare we've seen in the past 30 years," says Leon
    Golub, CfA astrophysicist and author of "Nearest Star: The Surprising
    Science Of Our Sun." Today's solar flare was classified as an X18-category
    explosion, meaning that it can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and
    long-lasting radiation storms.

    "We are waiting for the prediction of the geomagnetic storm level from NOAA
    (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)," says Kohl. "What we
    know at this point is that the flare was nearly perfectly positioned near
    the center of the Sun, and that a halo coronal mass ejection has left the
    Sun and is heading toward the Earth. The geomagnetic storm is likely to be a
    strong one, and will last about 24 hours."

    NOAA classifies geomagnetic storms on a scale from 1 to 5. Initial
    indications show that this has the potential to be a G5 storm - the top of
    the scale. The most benign effect of such a storm would be bright auroras
    visible from more southern latitudes than usual. However, the geomagnetic
    storm triggered by the CME also could interfere with satellite
    communications; disrupt power grids (as occurred in the 1989 Quebec
    blackout); even short out orbiting satellites, rendering them permanently

    "We've already had to shut down our SOHO instrument for safety reasons. It's
    getting blasted by high-energy particles from this solar flare," says Kohl.
    "Of more concern, geosynchronous communications satellites are likely to be
    affected." In California, where raging wildfires have damaged many
    microwave communication antennas on the ground, satellite communications
    have been crucial to emergency efforts. Emergency personnel should be
    prepared for potential disruptions and communication interference.

    "There's no direct danger to people on the ground," Kohl adds, "and I'm sure
    that NASA is monitoring the situation for any potential effects on the space
    station crew, and that they are taking appropriate precautions."

    According to NOAA, a G5-class geomagnetic storm can have the following

    Power systems: Widespread voltage control problems and protective system
    problems can occur, some grid systems may experience complete collapse or
    blackouts. Transformers may experience damage.

    Spacecraft operations: May experience extensive surface charging, problems
    with orientation, uplink/downlink and tracking satellites.

    Other systems: Pipeline currents can reach hundreds of amps, HF (high
    frequency) radio propagation may be impossible in many areas for one to two
    days, satellite navigation may be degraded for days, low-frequency radio
    navigation can be out for hours, and aurora has been seen as low as Florida
    and southern Texas (typically 40 degrees geomagnetic lat.).

    Solar astronomers say to stay tuned. This eruption is coming our way!

    Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for
    Astrophysics is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical
    Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized
    into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate
    of the universe.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Well, at least it won't effect us that badly, unless the atmosphere doesn't hold up, which it probably will. If the power goes out here, maybe school will close.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Here's news links:

    news story about today's flare:

    Up to date space weather, including information about today:

    Another news story about today's activity:

    current aurora activity (but we will be under clouds tomorrow night):

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