Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Solar Flare


NASA - March 10, 2006: The sun was quiet. The sun has already reached its minimum whereby the Sun spots had all vanished and Solar flares are nonexistent. Like the quiet before the storm.


A team of Researchers lead by Mausumi Dikpati of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) announced that a storm of the most intense solar maximum in 50 years is coming. The next sunspot cycle will be 30% to 50% stronger than the burst of the historic Solar Max of 1958.

Dikpati realized years ago that the key to this mystery is a conveyor belt on the sun which was described to be similar  to the Earth's which is called the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt.  It is a network of currents that carry water and heat from ocean to ocean.  If the conveyor belt stopped this will bring the weather in chaos.

The sun's conveyor belt is a current of electrically conducting gas that flows in a loop from the sun's equator to the poles and back again. The solar conveyor belt controls weather on the sun, specifically, the sunspot cycle. It takes about 40 years for the belt to complete its loop with varying speeds anywhere from a 50-year pace (slow) to a 30-year pace (fast).

"The top of the conveyor belt brush the surface of the sun, gliding up the magnetic fields of old, dead sunspots. The 'corpses' are dragged down at the poles to a depth of 200,000 km where the sun's magnetic dynamo can amplify them. Once the corpses (magnetic knots) are reincarnated (amplified), they become buoyant and float back to the surface." Then, sunspots appear!

History shows that big sunspot cycles are faster than the small ones.


NASA - Juune 21, 2011:  The earth experienced the most powerful storms on the eve of September 1859. The most energetic protons in half -a-millenium set telegraph offices on fire and sparked Northern lights over Cuba and Hawaii. Researchers still aren't able to categorize the unusual underlying flare. The "Carrington event" of 1859 (named after astronomer Richard Carrington witnessed the instigating flare) would tell us that even when the underlying cycle is seemingly weak strong storms can occur .  

What the forecasters are saying is that the sun is once again on th eve of a below-average solar cycle as 2011 advances.

Compared to the ill effects of the 1859 solar flare, the situation of today would be more serious.  With the modern technology that surrounds our life, blackouts could last for weeks to months; affecting banking and financial networks. Air and water transports could no longer trust GPS units for navigation. According to a 2008 report from the National Academy of Sciences, a century-class solar storm could have the economic impact of 20 hurricane Katrinas.  "Modern society depends on high-tech systems such as smart power grids, GPS, and satellite communications--all of which are vulnerable to solar storms."

NASA researchers a few miles away are actually doing something about it:

"We can now track the progress of solar storms in 3 dimensions as the storms bear down on Earth," says Michael Hesse, chief of the GSFC Space Weather Lab and a speaker at the forum.  "This sets the stage for actionable space weather alerts that could preserve power grids and other high-tech assets during extreme periods of solar activity."

A fleet of NASA spacecraft that goes around the sun made the monitoring possible by analysts  at the lab and feed the information into a bank of supercomputers for processing. A 3D movie showing where the storm will go is produced within the hour of a major eruption showing which planets and spacecraft it will hit and predicting when the impacts will occur. This is truly a pathbreaking  for interplanetary forecast in the short history of weather forecasting.

Antti Pulkkinen, a researcher at the Space Weather Lab says, "This is a really exciting time to work as a space weather forecaster. The emergence of serious physics-based space weather models is putting us in a position to predict if something major will happen."

To pinpoint transformers in greatest danger of failure during any particular storm, an experimental project named "Solar Shield" was created and led by Pulkkinen. Any electrical currents flowing in the Earth soil produced by a solar storm can now be predicted with the aid of some sophisticated computer models. These currents can do the most damage to power transformers.  "Disconnecting a specific transformer for a few hours could forestall weeks of regional blackouts," says Pulkkinen.

Another SWEF speaker, John Allen of NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate said that, "Astronauts are routinely exposed to four times as much radiation as industrial radiation workers on Earth," he says.  "It's a serious occupational hazard." Being on the frontline, Astronauts are exposed of a stormy weather. Therefore, they are carefully monitored and all activities are being accounted for to ensure safety.


NASA - July 11, 2011:  On June 7, 2011,  A flash of X-rays coming from the western edge of the solar disk were being detected by Earth-orbiting satellites . Registering only "M" (for medium) on the Richter scale of solar flares, the blast at first appeared to be a run-of-the-mill eruption--that is, until researchers looked at the movies. "We'd never seen anything like it," says Alex Young, a solar physicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center. "Half of the sun appeared to be blowing itself to bits."

"IN terms of raw power, this really was just a medium-sized eruption," says Young, "but it had a uniquely dramatic appearance caused by all the inky-dark material. We don't usually see that."

Solar physicist Angelos Vourlidas of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC calls it a case of "dark fireworks."

"The blast was triggered by an unstable magnetic filament near the sun's surface," he explains. "That filament was loaded down with cool plasma, which exploded in a spray of dark blobs and streamers."

As NASA explained, "Plasma blobs are funneled toward sunspots by magnetic fields. The plasma blobs were as big as planets, many larger than Earth. They rose and fell ballistically, moving under the influence of the sun's gravity like balls tossed in the air, exploding "like bombs" when they hit the stellar surface. Some blobs, however, were more like guided missiles."

 "In the movies we can see material 'grabbed' by magnetic fields and funneled toward sunspot groups hundreds of thousands of kilometers away," notes Young.

NASA also explained, "SDO also detected a shadowy shock wave issuing from the blast site. The 'solar tsunami' propagated more than halfway across the sun, visibly shaking filaments and loops of magnetism en route. Long-range action has become a key theme of solar physics since SDO was launched in 2010. The observatory frequently sees explosions in one part of the sun affecting other parts. Sometimes one explosion will trigger another ... and another ... with a domino sequence of flares going off all around the star."

"The June 7th blast didn't seem to trigger any big secondary explosions, but it was certainly felt far and wide," says Young. He estimates that the cloud massed about 4.5 x1015 grams, placing it in the top 5% of all CMEs recorded in the Space Age. For comparison, the most massive CME ever recorded was 1016 grams, only a factor of ~2 greater than the June 7th cloud.2 The amount of material that fell back to the sun on June 7th was approximately equal to the amount that flew away, Vourlidas says. As remarkable as the June 7th eruption seems to be, Young says it might not be so rare. "In fact," he says, "it might be downright common."

Only time can tell.

Related Articles:
Sun Recently Unleashed Solar Flare - August 5
Impact Of The Solar Flare

Reference: NASA

No comments:

Post a Comment