Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"Major Solar Storms in 2012" POWER GRIDS IN PERIL:

The National Academy of Sciences has released an important new report detailing how geomagnetic storms could damage the infrastructure of modern society. An area of particular vulnerability is power grids. Ground currents induced during century-class storms can melt the huge, multi-ton transformers at the heart of power distribution systems. Because modern power grids are interconnected, a cascade of failures could sweep across the country, rapidly cutting power to tens or even hundreds of millions of people:


The first sunspot of the new year has appeared. Sunspot 1010 in the sun's southern hemisphere is a member of new Solar Cycle 24. Readers, if you have a solar telescope, take a look and witness sunspot genesis in action.

According to the report, "impacts would be felt on interdependent infrastructures with, for example, potable water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in 12-24 hours; immediate or eventual loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, transportation, fuel resupply and so on." Melted transformers can take months to repair or replace--so a single extreme storm could make itself felt long after solar activity subsides. Nothing, it seems, is immune from space weather. (audio)

Full report: Severe Space Weather Events--Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts (National Academy of Sciences)

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Such relativistic protons/helium nuclei are observed continually bombarding Earth's atmosphere as cosmic ray protons/helium nuclei, which Drexler posits are ...


Clouds vex astronomers, but they're not always a bad thing. "The same high clouds that prevented me from seeing more Quadrantid meteors on the night of Jan. 3rd created a beautiful display of ice halos when the sun came up in the morning," reports Mila Zinkova of San Francisco, Californa.

Among the network of arcs and loops, Zinkova identified "a 22o halo, a 46o halo, a Parry arc, an upper tangent arc and a sundog. I captured them all using my Canon Digital Rebel XTi."

So, the next time vexacious clouds drift overhead, look around the sun. You may be pleased with what you see.

more images: from Stuart Thomson of Maine; from Thomas M. Faber of Alpharetta, Georgia; from Matěj Grék of Lysá hora, Beskydy mountains, Czech Republic; from Jodie of Fort St John, British Columbia; from Andrea Tolman of Basin, Wyoming; from Gilbert Tennant of Hampton, Ontario; from Steve Yezek of Grafton, Iowa

Magnetic Field effected by something ? * 123

Shield almost down

Joint USAF/NOAA Report of Solar and Geophysical Activity 06 Jan 2009
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Geophysical Activity Summary 05/2100Z to 06/2100Z: The geomagnetic field was quiet. Solar wind speed has been slowly declining and is now near 400 km/s. ...

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A new study from the National Academy of Sciences outlines grim possibilities on Earth for a worst-case scenario solar storm.

Damage to power grids and other communications systems could be catastrophic, the scientists conclude, with effects leading to a potential loss of governmental control of the situation.

The prediction is based in part on major solar storm in 1859 caused telegraph wires to short out in the United States and Europe, igniting widespread fires. It was perhaps the worst in the past 200 years, according to the new study, and with the advent of modern power grids and satellites, much more is at risk.

"A contemporary repetition of the [1859] event would cause significantly more extensive (and possibly catastrophic) social and economic disruptions," the researchers conclude.

'Command and control might be lost'

When the sun is in the active phase of its 11-year cycle, it can unleash powerful magnetic storms that disable satellites, threaten astronaut safety, and even disrupt communication systems on Earth. The worst storms can knock out power grids by inducing currents that melt transformers.

Modern power grids are so interconnected that a big space storm -- the type expected to occur about once a century -- could cause a cascade of failures that would sweep across the United States, cutting power to 130 million people or more in this country alone, the new report concludes.

Such widespread power outages, though expected to be a rare possibility, would affect other vital systems.

"Impacts would be felt on interdependent infrastructures with, for example, potable water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in 12-24 hours; immediate or eventual loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, transportation, fuel resupply and so on," the report states.

Outages could take months to fix, the researchers say. Banks might close, and trade with other countries might halt.

"Emergency services would be strained, and command and control might be lost," write the researchers, led by Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

"Whether it is terrestrial catastrophes or extreme space weather incidents, the results can be devastating to modern societies that depend in a myriad of ways on advanced technological systems," Baker said in a statement released with the report.

Stormy past

Solar storms have had significant effects in modern time:

  • In 1989, the sun unleashed a tempest that knocked out power to all of Quebec, Canada.
  • A remarkable 2003 rampage included 10 major solar flares over a two-week period, knocking out two Earth-orbiting satellites and crippling an instrument aboard a Mars orbiter.

"Obviously, the sun is Earth's life blood," said Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics division at NASA. "To mitigate possible public safety issues, it is vital that we better understand extreme space weather events caused by the sun's activity."

"Space weather can produce solar storm electromagnetic fields that induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines, causing wide-spread blackouts and affecting communication cables that support the Internet," the report states. "Severe space weather also produces solar energetic particles and the dislocation of the Earth's radiation belts, which can damage satellites used for commercial communications, global positioning and weather forecasting."

Rush to prepare

The race is on for better forecasting abilities, as the next peak in solar activity is expected to come around 2012. While the sun is in a lull now, activity can flare up at any moment, and severe space weather -- how severe, nobody knows -- will ramp up a year or two before the peak.

Some scientists expect the next peak to bring more severe events than other recent peaks.

"A catastrophic failure of commercial and government infrastructure in space and on the ground can be mitigated through raising public awareness, improving vulnerable infrastructure and developing advanced forecasting capabilities," the report states. "Without preventive actions or plans, the trend of increased dependency on modern space-weather sensitive assets could make society more vulnerable in the future."

The report was commissioned and funded by NASA. Experts from around the world in industry, government and academia participated. It was released this week.

THEMIS Project Discovers Breach In Earth's Magnetic Field
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The Ancient Serpent Clock

This Classical Greek Zodiac shows the Serpent of ancient myth at its heart as it wheels around the north celestial pole at the same speed as the earth spins.

The Serpent or Dragon has long been the symbol of wisdom all over the world, from the Egyptians, Chinese Greeks, Maya, Celts and the Vikings.

Directly behind its head in the first coil is the position of the sun in the solar system (The Ecliptic Pole), It is from this system and an instrument with which to measure its movements accurately that the ancients produced their knowledge of the cycles of Time and the concepts of good and evil,order and chaos.

Those reading this who already have some knowledge will be able to date this Classical Zodiac by reading the position of the celestial pole and the Vernal or point of Aries on the equinox .

This website will attempt to explain the technology of the ancients in as simple a format as possible by explaining the lost star clock of our ancestors and how it was measured with the cross and the wheel.

Space elevator climber demo

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... including the lunar lander challenge won by DOOM programmer John Cormack, the NASA sponsored Space Elevator competition, the annual Great Moonbuggy Race ...

BBC News
Space elevator climber demo
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By Andrea Thompson
Senior Writer
posted: 07 January 2009
04:43 pm ET

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- Space is typically thought of as a very quiet place. But one team of astronomers has found a strange cosmic noise that booms six times louder than expected.

The roar is from the distant cosmos. Nobody knows what causes it.

Of course, sound waves can't travel in a vacuum (which is what most of space is), or at least they can't very efficiently. But radio waves can.

Radio waves are not sound waves, but they are still electromagnetic waves, situated on the low-frequency end of the light spectrum.

Many objects in the universe, including stars and quasars, emit radio waves. Even our home galaxy, the Milky Way, emits a static hiss (first detected in 1931 by physicist Karl Jansky). Other galaxies also send out a background radio hiss.

But the newly detected signal, described here today at the 213th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, is far louder than astronomers expected.

There is "something new and interesting going on in the universe," said Alan Kogut of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

A team led by Kogut detected the signal with a balloon-borne instrument named ARCADE (Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission).

In July 2006, the instrument was launched from NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, and reached an altitude of about 120,000 feet (36,500 meters), where the atmosphere thins into the vacuum of space.

ARCADE's mission was to search the sky for faint signs of heat from the first generation of stars, but instead they heard a roar from the distant reaches of the universe.

"The universe really threw us a curve," Kogut said. "Instead of the faint signal we hoped to find, here was this booming noise six times louder than anyone had predicted."

Detailed analysis of the signal ruled out primordial stars or any known radio sources, including gas in the outermost halo of our own galaxy.

Other radio galaxies also can't account for the noise – there just aren't enough of them.

"You'd have to pack them into the universe like sardines," said study team member Dale Fixsen of the University of Maryland. "There wouldn't be any space left between one galaxy and the next."

The signal is measured to be six times brighter than the combined emission of all known radio sources in the universe.

For now, the origin of the signal remains a mystery.

"We really don't know what it is,"said team member Michael Seiffert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

And not only has it presented astronomers with a new puzzle, it is obscuring the sought-for signal from the earliest stars. But the cosmic static may itself provide important clues to the development of galaxies when the universe was much younger, less than half its present age. Because the radio waves come from far away, traveling at the speed of light, they therefore represent an earlier time in the universe.

"This is what makes science so exciting," Seiffert said. "You start out on a path to measure something – in this case, the heat from the very first stars – but run into something else entirely, some unexplained."

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