Posts Tagged ‘Science & Space’

If you visit the NASA site or do a search for “solar flares” then you will see the beauty of this phenomena. They are amazing to witness. NASA has The Solar Dynamics Observatory which keeps its lens on the sun and they have video of these emissions. Perhaps your perception of the sun is just this warming yellow ball in the sky, but a closer examination shows how powerful and ever-changing the sun is!

You may have heard of solar flares in the past few years. I’ve always found them fascinating, but do you know how they can affect you? Do you even know what they are?

Without getting too in-depth with research and cosmic talk, solar flares are bursts of radiation from the sun. According to NASA, the harmful radiation from the sun will not penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere to harm us BUT it can affect the level of atmosphere where GPS and communications satellites hover.

NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) has a Space Weather Prediction Center, which can be found at spaceweather.gov, which includes space weather forecasts and alerts.

There are levels of intensity for solar flares: A-class (low), B, C, M, and X being the most powerful. As I understand it – they increase at ten times the power. So, to quote NASA: “an X is ten times an M and 100 times a C. Within each letter class there is a finer scale from 1 to 9.”

Solar flares are usually associated with solar magnetic storms, better known as CMEs (or Coronal Mass Ejections). Let’s review that: coronal means ‘of the crown or front face’ – mass is ‘of one body with no definite shape’ and ejection — do I really need to give you a definition? Put it together and you’ve essentially got the sun spitting at space.

SOLAR MAXIMUM. Sounds scary right?
Well… They are geomagnetic storms with a side of radiation that increases in strength. Before you freak out and think the end is near, I’m telling you right now you’ve probably lived through a few already. They are cyclical and happen about every 11 years, and then wane in strength to what is called a Solar Minimum, and generally marked by the increase or decrease of sun spots.

How does it affect you then?
As mentioned earlier, our satellites orbit in the Upper Atmosphere. Magnetic waves and radiation will affect them, and possibly put our astronauts in further danger. But here on the ground, if our internet or satellite connections go out, if our cell phones stop working, and our networking, banking, and communications go black, then the majority of us are totally screwed.

Did you know that NASA and NOAA give electric companies and airline pilots space weather warnings? Consider that the next time you fly (sorry, frequent flyers).

And just so you are assured that you have survived, I’m glad to tell you that in May of 2013, there were three X-class solar flares within a 24-hour period: and X1.7, X 2.8, and an X 3.2.

You seem to be doing fine though – right?


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