posted on May, 27 2005 @ 10:54 AM
Anyone who has taken a class in basic Astronomy will remember that the Sun is believed to have an 11-year cycle of activity. In the peak years solar
flares and the accompanying violent burst of radiation of several types, and hence geo-magnetic storms, are more frequent and more violent. In "off
years," scientists expect far fewer and much milder flares. No mechanism has been theorized to actually preclude violent flares in off years, but
statistically it has long been observed as highly unlikely. In the last couple years, however, the "unlikely" has been uncommonly frequent! The
latest came early this year when the cycle "ought to be" winding down to a minimum.
The most intense burst of solar radiation in five decades accompanied a large solar flare on January 20. It shook space weather theory and
highlighted the need for new forecasting techniques, according to several presentations at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting this week in
The solar flare, which occurred at 2 a.m. EST, tripped radiation monitors all over the planet and scrambled detectors on spacecraft. The shower of
energetic protons came minutes after the first sign of the flare.
"This flare produced the largest solar radiation signal on the ground in nearly 50 years," said Dr. Richard Mewaldt of the California Institute of
Technology. He is a co-investigator on NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) spacecraft.
Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
We "should be" experencing few solar particle storms now, as the last "solar maximum" years were 2001-2002. See the included URL to the National
Oceanic & Oceanographic Administration graph of the current "Solar Cycle 23." Instead, we have just gotten the "mother of solar storms!"
While terrestrial damage due to this one was slight, previous solar flares have been responsible for problems ranging from damaged satellites to
power-grid outages. But the danger posed to human space activity is perhaps the most serious. In literally breaking the record for the speed in which
the nuclear particle storm reached earth, scientists say any attempts to warn astronauts to "take cover" were impossible.
The normal time it takes a proton storm to hit earth is about 2 hours after the flare is first observed. The 20th January, 2005 flare sent it's
potentially deadly blast to earth in just 15 minutes. But the unusual speed is not the only observation about this one that has solar physicists
questioning a number of their currently-held beliefs about how solar storms work.
Related News Links: