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Posts from the ‘Space Weather’ Category

Why the Duke Emergency sirens test seemed so loud today.

The second Wednesday of every quarter throughout the year Duke power tests it’s network of audio emergency sirens. These sirens serve to warn residents of both nuclear emergencies, flooding from dam failures or water releases from their hydro power plants and even tornadoes in certain circumstances.

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Solar Flare & Geomagnetic Storm Means Auroras Pretty Far South.

The sun on Monday morning unleashed a hug M9 Class solar flare. This flared launched a earth directed CME or Coronal Mass Ejection. This always sounds scary but it really isn’t unless you are a satellite. These CME’s and flares can disrupt or damage communications satellites and interfere with other electronic devices. But they also can bring stunning and beautiful auroras deep into the the mid-latitudes. Sometimes even the lower latitudes. Tonight and for the next 24 hours the CME will be interacting with our upper atmosphere and the results could be stunning for sky watchers, maybe even in and around the Carolinas.

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The Crash of Failed Mars Probe Phobos-Grunt (Infographic)

From Space.com…

Russia launched an ambitious Mars moon probe, the Phobos-Grunt mission, on Nov. 8, 2011 (EST) on a mission to collect the first samples of the Martian moon Phobos, but the spacecraft was soon marooned in Earth orbit. See how the Phobos-Grunt probe will fall to Earth in January 2012 in the SPACE.com infographic below.

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An asteroid drive by today and Sunspot 1339

This week ahead there are a couple of things to watch for up in space. The first one seems like something to be concerned with but it’s really not. I promise…. even though this thing on the right looks like something out of the movies.That is an asteroid which will make a close pass to the Earth.

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Rare treat one week before Halloween, Aurora Borealis!

A powerful and unique geomagnetic storm on Monday October 24, 2011 produce a widespread view of the Northern Lights. For the first time since 2004 we actually saw the Aurora deep into the SE. Read more

Geomagnetic storm last night made for great Auroras in the northern states.

Last night one of the strongest geomantic storms in years hit the earth. A large x-class solar flare over the weekend launched a CME or Coronal Mass ejection which gave the earth a indirect hit last night. Here are just some of the amazing shots sent into Space weather.com

SatEnv

SUBSIDING STORM: A severe geomagnetic storm (Kp=7-8) that began yesterday when a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field is subsiding. At the peak of the disturbance, auroras were sighted around both poles and in more than five US states including Michigan, New York, South Dakota, Maine, and Minnesota:

“The evening started off beautifully here in northeast Minnesota,” says Travis Novitsky, who photographed the display from Grand Portage. “Almost as soon as it was dark we were seeing tall columns of green and red light. It was brief, yet spectacular!”

Sky watchers at the highest latitudes should remain alert for auroras as Earth’s magnetic field continues to reverberate from the CME impact. Aurora alerts: text,voice.

Sun goes crazy this week, your GPS might suffer.

The sun launched some huge solar flares this week which sent 3 large CME’s towards the Earth. The impact will be fluctuation of GPS, power grids and communications. Below is a model of the CME or Coronal Mass Ejection moving towards the earth.

20110802_102100_anim.tim-den

The latest on the impacts and what this all means from the NOAA Space Weather Center.

2300Z, August 4, 2011 – The first of the three shocks arrived at 2155Z, about one hour ago. So far, only slight disturbances to the geomagnetic field, but there is plenty of action still anticipated. See a video of a SWPC researcher talking about this activity and what we can expect: Video

1500Z, August 4, 2011 – Great anticipation for the first of what may be three convergent shocks to slam the geomagnetic field in the next twelve hours, +/-. The CME with the Radio Blackout earlier today is by far the fastest, and may catch its forerunners in the early hours of August 5 (UTC) — at earth.

Two impacts are expected; G2 (Moderate) to G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storming on August 5, and potentially elevated protons to the S2 (Moderate) Solar Radiation Storm condition, those piling up ahead of the shock. The source of it all, Region 1261, is still hot, so more eruptions are possible.

 

Solar Minimum on the Way?

I’ve blogged before about solar flares and the sun starting to wake up. Well new research now shows that this brief period of solar activity may be all we see for sometime. It’s hard to say what impacts this will ultimately have on our climate because this combined with many other factors contribute to our climate. The sun though is the driving force for all life on this planet. History has show that even subtle changes in it’s output can have dramatic impacts on the global temperature and climate.

This press release was originally posted on Watt’s Up with That” Climate Blog.

 

“All three of these lines of research to point to the familiar sunspot cycle shutting down for a while.”

Posted on June 14, 2011 by Anthony Watts

I’ve managed to get a copy of the official press release provided by the Southwest Research Institute Planetary Science Directorate to MSM journalists, for today’s stunning AAS announcement and it is reprinted in full here:

WHAT’S DOWN WITH THE SUN?
MAJOR DROP IN SOLAR ACTIVITY PREDICTED

Latitude-time plots of jet streams under the Sun’s surface show the surprising shutdown of the solar cycle mechanism. New jet streams typically form at about 50 degrees latitude (as in 1999 on this plot) and are associated with the following solar cycle 11 years later. New jet streams associated with a future 2018-2020 solar maximum were expected to form by 2008 but are not present even now, indicating a delayed or missing Cycle 25.

A missing jet stream, fading spots, and slower activity near the poles say that our Sun is heading for a rest period even as it is acting up for the first time in years, according to scientists at the National Solar Observatory (NSO) and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

As the current sunspot cycle, Cycle 24, begins to ramp up toward maximum, independent studies of the solar interior, visible surface, and the corona indicate that the next 11-year solar sunspot cycle, Cycle 25, will be greatly reduced or may not happen at all.

The results were announced at the annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society, which is being held this week at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces:

http://astronomy.nmsu.edu/SPD2011/

“This is highly unusual and unexpected,” Dr. Frank Hill, associate director of the NSO’s Solar Synoptic Network, said of the results. “But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.”

Spot numbers and other solar activity rise and fall about every 11 years, which is half of the Sun’s 22-year magnetic interval since the Sun’s magnetic poles reverse with each cycle. An immediate question is whether this slowdown presages a second Maunder Minimum, a 70-year period with virtually no sunspots during 1645-1715.

Hill is the lead author on one of three papers on these results being presented this week. Using data from the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG) of six observing stations around the world, the team translates surface pulsations caused by sound reverberating through the Sun into models of the internal structure. One of their discoveries is an east-west zonal wind flow inside the Sun, called the torsional oscillation, which starts at
mid-latitudes and migrates towards the equator. The latitude of this wind stream matches the new spot formation in each cycle, and successfully predicted the late onset of the current Cycle 24.

“We expected to see the start of the zonal flow for Cycle 25 by now,” Hill explained, “but we see no sign of it. This indicates that the start of Cycle 25 may be delayed to 2021 or 2022, or may not happen at all.”

In the second paper, Matt Penn and William Livingston see a long-term weakening trend in the strength of sunspots, and predict that by Cycle 25 magnetic fields erupting on the Sun will be so weak that few if any sunspots will be formed. Spots are formed when intense magnetic flux tubes erupt from the interior and keep cooled gas from circulating back to the interior. For typical sunspots this magnetism has a strength of 2,500 to 3,500 gauss
(Earth’s magnetic field is less than 1 gauss at the surface); the field must reach at least 1,500 gauss to form a dark spot.

Average magnetic field strength in sunspot umbras has been steadily declining for over a decade. The trend includes sunspots from Cycles 22, 23, and (the current cycle) 24.

Using more than 13 years of sunspot data collected at the McMath-Pierce Telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona, Penn and Livingston observed that the average field strength declined about 50 gauss per year during Cycle 23 and now in Cycle 24. They also observed that spot temperatures have risen exactly as expected for such changes in the magnetic field. If the trend continues, the field strength will drop below the 1,500 gauss threshold and
spots will largely disappear as the magnetic field is no longer strong enough to overcome convective forces on the solar surface.

Moving outward, Richard Altrock, manager of the Air Force’s coronal research program at NSO’s Sunspot, NM, facilities has observed a slowing of the “rush to the poles,” the rapid poleward march of magnetic activity observed in the Sun’s faint corona. Altrock used four decades of observations with NSO’s 40-cm (16-inch) coronagraphic telescope at Sunspot.

“A key thing to understand is that those wonderful, delicate coronal features are actually powerful, robust magnetic structures rooted in the interior of the Sun,” Altrock explained. “Changes we see in the corona reflect changes deep inside the Sun.”

Altrock used a photometer to map iron heated to 2 million degrees C (3.6 million F). Stripped of half of its electrons, it is easily concentrated by magnetism rising from the Sun. In a well-known pattern, new solar activity emerges first at about 70 degrees latitude at the start of a cycle, then towards the equator as the cycle ages. At the same time, the new magnetic fields push remnants of the older cycle as far as 85 degrees poleward.

“In cycles 21 through 23, solar maximum occurred when this rush appeared at an average latitude of 76 degrees,” Altrock said. “Cycle 24 started out late and slow and may not be strong enough to create a rush to the poles, indicating we’ll see a very weak solar maximum in 2013, if at all. If the rush to the poles fails to complete, this creates a tremendous dilemma for the theorists, as it would mean that Cycle 23’s magnetic field will not completely disappear from the polar regions (the rush to the poles accomplishes this feat). No one knows what the Sun will do in that case.”

All three of these lines of research to point to the familiar sunspot cycle shutting down for a while.

“If we are right,” Hill concluded, “this could be the last solar maximum we’ll see for a few decades. That would affect everything from space exploration to Earth’s climate.”

Super Full Moon March 19th: It’s cool but won’t cause a natural disaster.

I have been bombarded with e-mails, Tweets and Facebook posts about the upcoming “Super Moon”. There has been a lot of internet myths/hoaxes out there blaming everything under the sun on it including the earthquake in Japan. Even though the dates weren’t even close, among many other doomsday scenarios. I was wanted to do a blog post dispelling these myths and hoaxes until I found this great post from NASA and it’s accompanied video. Which does a much better job of explaining the coolness of the “super moon” while still explaining the myths about it than I could do.

Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

March 16, 2011: Mark your calendar. On March 19th, a full Moon of rare size and beauty will rise in the east at sunset. It’s a super "perigee moon"–the biggest in almost 20 years.

"The last full Moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March of 1993," says Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC. "I’d say it’s worth a look."

Full Moons vary in size because of the oval shape of the Moon’s orbit. It is an ellipse with one side (perigee) about 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other (apogee): diagram. Nearby perigee moons are about 14% bigger and 30% brighter than lesser moons that occur on the apogee side of the Moon’s orbit.

"The full Moon of March 19th occurs less than one hour away from perigee–a near-perfect coincidence1that happens only 18 years or so," adds Chester.

A perigee full Moon brings with it extra-high "perigean tides," but this is nothing to worry about, according to NOAA. In most places, lunar gravity at perigee pulls tide waters only a few centimeters (an inch or so) higher than usual. Local geography can amplify the effect to about 15 centimeters (six inches)–not exactly a great flood.

Super Full Moon (moon illusion, 200px)

The Moon looks extra-big when it is beaming through foreground objects–a.k.a. "the Moon illusion."

Indeed, contrary to some reports circulating the Internet, perigee Moons do not trigger natural disasters. The "super moon" of March 1983, for instance, passed without incident. And an almost-super Moon in Dec. 2008 also proved harmless.

Okay, the Moon is 14% bigger than usual, but can you really tell the difference? It’s tricky. There are no rulers floating in the sky to measure lunar diameters. Hanging high overhead with no reference points to provide a sense of scale, one full Moon can seem much like any other.

The best time to look is when the Moon is near the horizon. That is when illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. On March 19th, why not let the "Moon illusion" amplify a full Moon that’s extra-big to begin with? The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset may seem so nearby, you can almost reach out and touch it.

Don’t bother. Even a super perigee Moon is still 356,577 km away. That is, it turns out, a distance of rare beauty.

full_moon

Another Large X-Flare is Launched By The Sun

After going 4 years without an x-flare we have seen 2 in just the past month. Late yesterday March 9th earth orbiting satellites detected an X1.5-class solar flare which originated from sunspot 1166 around 2323 UTC. This image below in from NASA’s SDO showing the blast.

It does appear that a Coronal Mass Ejections or CME for short was propelled towards Earth. These measurements are preliminary and NASA will be collecting more data from both the Stereo-B space craft and the SDO to determine what impact we might see on Earth.

Here’s a look at the Solar X-ray Flux showing that there was a peak late yesterday into the X-class range.

 

2011-03-10_0949

Here’s a look at the current space weather forecast from NOAA. It’s too early to tell what kind of impacts this could have on our magnetic field but this was a smaller flare than the x-flare in February. I wouldn’t expect anything too major, but larger flares are still possible from any of the sunspots currently on the sun. There is more information about the type and scales of radio, geomagnetic and radiation storms on the NOAA Space Weather page.

www.spaceweather.com contributed to this post.