A little more about that X-Class solar flare

Big Sun Burp
Big Sun Burp

Yesterday the sun unleashed a big X-class solar flare, aimed directly at Earth. Today the NOAA has issued a couple of interesting alerts related to the incoming geomagnetic storm expected from the flare, indicating:

  • Power system irregularities are possible.
  • GPS navigation may be affected by loss-of-lock
  • We may be able to see aurora as far south as Pennsylvania, Iowa and Oregon.

A slightly more recent alert says that an “enhancement in the energetic portion of the solar radiation spectrum may indicate increased biological risk to astronauts or passengers and crew in high latitude, high altitude flights.” There may also be “increased risk to all satellite systems.”

Make no mistake, there’s no reason to actually expect massive planetwide electric doom from the storm, but it’s worth noting that the Great Solar Storm of 1859 (also called the Carrington Super Flare), which struck a far less networked, electronic planet, was nevertheless a real sonofabitch on the few systems in place at the time. Aurorae were seen in areas that never normally witness the phenomenon and telegraph operators reported electric shocks and sparks flying from telegraph poles. Weirdly, some telegraphs even continued sending messages even after their power was shut off.

Don’t fly, buy paper maps and don’t rely on satellites for a day or so, you’ll be fine. Also don’t be an astronaut.

Good talk.

[Space Weather Alerts]

Polar Vortex, Solar Flare, a Winter Salad of Doom

Hey, this is fun–as the northern hemisphere shuddered in the throes of the icy grip of the Polar Vortex, the Sun decided to remind us all who is really the real big cheese in this solar system and threw an X-class flare our way! SpaceWeather.com reports: “Giant sunspot AR1944 erupted on Jan 7th at approximately 1832 UT, producing a powerful X1-class solar flare. First-look coronagraph images from the STEREO-Ahead spacecraft appear to show a coronal mass ejection (CME) emerging from the blast site. If so, the CME is almost certainly heading for Earth.” The X-Flare won’t cook us or anything, but it’s worth notice, because they can be “major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms.”[SpaceWeather.com]

Astronomer spots asteroids before they hit the Earth–twice

Rich Kowalski, a Tucson-based astronomer, should be earning a goddamned good paycheck. The guy just spotted–for the second time–a near-Earth asteroid before it became on on-Earth asteroid. The Arizona Daily Star reports that 2014 AA was only the size of a car and it burned out harmlessly in the atmosphere on Jan. 1. Most asteroids are about that size and burn up unnoticed, but Tim Swindle, who heads the lab where Kowalski does his work, says the work of astronomers like Kowalski is “to find the ones that may be dangerous” and that the “trick is to find them before they find us.” Looks like that may be possible, after all. Hopefully soon. [AZStarnet.com]