Sunday, June 10, 2012

Did you wonder why you’re favorite radio station, the one that comes in real good, suddenly was cutting out yesterday? Or a week ago? And cell phone usage was intermittent at best for several days in March?

One Word....Okay, two words - Solar Storms.

There are some more expected later this month, but the next one to be concerned about is July 3rd through the 7th. Much of what we have experienced has been due to the new sunspot AR1504. Should we be concerned? Not necessarily. Perhaps it is a good idea to stay away from flying without checking the current Solar state. Cell phone coverage is a mere annoyance, losing the radio during a good song can be a bummer but a solar flare can also disrupt GPS, power grids, plane flights. The problem comes from the magnetic part of the storm.

We’re down here on Earth. Right now the ISS is in our night sky. (You can actually see it. It is the brightest object after the Moon and Venus.) And while solar storms actually reduce one kind of radiation felt on the ISS, there is a risk of another. Also a solar storm in July of 1979 caused the ISS to need a boost to prevent it from burning up in the atmosphere.

Where is this all leading? Scientists tell us that the Sun will be here for around 5 billion more years before it changes to a red giant likely obliterating the Earth. But explain this - the Sun is dimming measurably in recent history. The Solar wind speeds have decayed and its temperature has dropped by 10-15%. And there are many changes. 5 billion years you might say 'Not my problem?' Something is happening now. Houston? We may have a problem!

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