Category: Solar Activity


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Earth’s Magnetic Field is Not About to Flip, Like Previously Thought

First Posted: Nov 24, 2015 11:09 AM EST

Magnetic Field

(Photo : Huapei Wang, with source files courtesy of NASA’s Earth Observatory/NOAA/DOD)
Earth’s magnetic field is not about to flip. While the intensity of this field has weakened in the last couple hundred of years, researchers have found that this doesn’t mean it’s about to reverse.

Humans have lived through dips in magnetic field intensity before. However, there are debates about whether reversals of the magnetic field in the distant past had any connection to species extinctions. Today, a magnetic field reversal would have a huge impact due to one very important thing: technology. The magnetic field deflects the solar wind and cosmic rays. This means that with a weaker field, more radiation gets through which can disrupt power grids and satellite communications.

“The field may be decreasing rapidly, but we’re not yet down to the long-term average,” said Dennis Kent, one of the researchers, in a news release. “In 100 years, the field may even go back the other direction [in intensity].”

 

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Scientific American

Earth’s Magnetic Field Flip Could Happen Sooner Than Expected

Changes measured by the Swarm satellite show that our magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than originally predicted, especially over the Western Hemisphere
Changes measured by the Swarm satellite

Changes measured by the Swarm satellite over the past 6 months shows that Earth’s magnetic field is changing. Shades of red show areas where it is strengthening, and shades of blue show areas that are weakening.
Credit: ESA/DTU

Earth’s magnetic field, which protects the planet from huge blasts of deadly solar radiation, has been weakening over the past six months, according to data collected by a European Space Agency (ESA) satellite array called Swarm.The biggest weak spots in the magnetic field — which extends 370,000 miles (600,000 kilometers) above the planet’s surface — have sprung up over the Western Hemisphere, while the field has strengthened over areas like the southern Indian Ocean, according to the magnetometers onboard the Swarm satellites — three separate satellites floating in tandem.

The scientists who conducted the study are still unsure why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is that Earth’s magnetic poles are getting ready to flip, said Rune Floberghagen, the ESA’s Swarm mission manager. In fact, the data suggest magnetic north is moving toward Siberia.

“Such a flip is not instantaneous, but would take many hundred if not a few thousand years,” Floberghagen told Live Science. “They have happened many times in the past.”[50 Amazing Facts About Planet Earth]

 

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by Dr. Tony Phillips.

GLANCING-BLOW CME EXPECTED THIS WEEK:

A magnetic filament on the sun erupted during the late hours of Nov. 15th, hurling inky-black fragments of itself into space. Shortly thereafter, a CME was observed racing away from the sun:

Storm track models from NOAA suggest that the CME will deliver a glancing blow to Earth’s magnetic field on Nov. 18th or 19th. There is a 70% chance of polar geomagnetic storms when the CME arrives.

Actually, the arrival of the CME could be the second strike. A co-rotating interaction region (CIR) is also expected to hit Earth’s magnetic field on Nov. 18th. CIRs are transition zones between fast- and slow-moving solar wind streams. Solar wind plasma piles up in these regions, producing density gradients and shock waves that do a good job of sparking auroras.

The double impact, CIR followed by CME, could produce a G1 or G2-class geomagnetic storm and bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. Observers in northern-tier US states from Maine to Washington should be alert for colorful lights in the midnight sky

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GIANT SUNSPOT HIDES SPACESHIP:

By Dr. Tony Phillips.

Sunspot AR2443 is so big, it is attracting the attention of astrophotographers around the world. Earlier today when Peter Rosén of Stockholm, Sweden, photographed the sprawling complex, he found a spaceship hiding among its dark cores. Seriously. Take a close look at the image below:

Can’t find the spaceship? Click here and here. “It is the International Space Station,” explains Rosén. “I caught it making a split-second transit of the giant sunspot.”

Indeed, AR244 is huge. From end to end it measures almost 200,000 km. Many of the dark cores are as large as terrestrial continents–and a couple are as large as Earth itself. These dimensions make it an easy target for backyard solar telecopes.

Of greater interest is the sunspot’s potential for explosive activity. The spotty complex has a ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that harbors energy for strong M-class solar flares. Any such explosions will be geoeffective as the sunspot turns squarely toward Earth in the days ahead.

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by Dr. Tony Phillips.

ENORMOUS CORONAL HOLE:

A gigantic hole in the sun’s atmosphere has opened up and a broad stream of solar wind is flowing out of it. This is called a “coronal hole.” It is the deep blue-colored region in this extreme UV image from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:

Coronal holes are places in the sun’s atmosphere where the magnetic field unfurls and allows solar wind to escape. In the image above, the sun’s magnetic field is traced by white curving lines. Outside the coronal hole, those magnetic fields curve back on themselves, trapping solar wind inside their loops. Inside the coronal hole, no such trapping occurs. Solar wind plasma is free to fly away as indicated by the white arrows.

For much of the next week, Earth’s environment in space will be dominated by winds flowing from this broad hole. This should activate some beautiful Arctic auroras. NOAA forecasters estimate a 65% of polar geomagnetic storms today as Earth moves deeper into the solar wind stream.

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Space Weather

by Dr. Tony Phillips.

SOLAR ‘MINI-MAX’:

Last month at the Space Weather Workshop in Boulder, Colorado, solar cycle expert Doug Biesecker of NOAA announced that “Solar Maximum is here, finally.” According to his analysis, the sunspot number for Solar Cycle 24 is near its peak right now.

Spoiler: It’s not very impressive. “This solar cycle continues to rank among the weakest on record,” says Workshop attendee Ron Turner of Analytic Services, Inc. To illustrate the point, he plotted the smoothed sunspot number of Cycle 24 vs. the previous 23 cycles since 1755:

In the composite plot, Cycle 24 is traced in red. Only a few cycles since the 18th century have have had lower sunspot counts. For this reason, many researchers have started calling the ongoing peak a “Mini-Max.”

“By all Earth-based measures of geomagnetic and geoeffective solar activity, this cycle has been extremely quiet,” notes Turner. “However, Doug Biesecker has presented several charts showing that most large events such as strong flares and significant geomagnetic storms occur in the declining phase of the solar cycle.”

In other words, there is still a chance for significant solar activity in the months and years ahead. Let’s just hope it is not too significant.

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Earth Watch Report  –  Solar Activity

 

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Space Weather

by Dr. Tony Phillips.

CORONAL CANYON:

Today, the sun’s atmosphere is split down the middle by a canyon-shaped coronal hole. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed the chasm, which is almost directly facing Earth:

Coronal holes are places where the sun’s magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. This hole is straddling the sun’s equator so the solar wind stream emerging from it will intersect Earth’s orbit. ETA: May 16-17. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on those dates.

 

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Earth Watch Report  –  Solar Activity

 

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Space Weather

by Dr. Tony Phillips.

SOUTHERN CORONAL HOLE:

Imagine what it would be like if, from time to time, a hole opened up in Earth’s atmosphere and air went blowing out into space. On the sun, this happens all the time. The openings are called “coronal holes.” NASA’s Solar Dynamics Obervatory is monitoring one right now; it is the dark wedge-shaped region in this extreme ultraviolet image of the sun’s southern hemisphere:

Coronal holes are places in the sun’s atmosphere where the magnetic field bends back and allows gas to escape. From such openings, solar wind blows out into space. A stream of solar wind flowing from this particular coronal hole could reach Earth on May 11-12, sparking auroras when it arrives. On the other hand, the stream might sail south of our planet, delivering only a glancing blow. Stay tuned for updates.

 

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Huge square-shaped ‘coronal hole’ spotted on Sun (VIDEO)

Published time: May 13, 2014 12:00

NASA / SDO / GODDARD SPACE CENTER

NASA / SDO / GODDARD SPACE CENTER

A gigantic square hole has been video-captured on the Sun’s surface by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The particularly large monstrosity, known as a “coronal hole”, is an indicator of solar winds ejected out of the star at insane speeds.

 

Read More and Watch Video Here

 

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 Space Weather. com

by Dr. Tony Phillips.

RADIO BLACKOUT:

An X-class solar flare on April 25th irradiated Earth’s upper atmosphere with extreme ultraviolet radiation. Waves of ionization rippled around the dayside of the planet, causing a widespread blackout of shortwave radio transmissions. Radio astronomer Dick Flagg recorded the event at his observatory at the Windward Community College on Oahu:

“This is a dynamic spectrum,” explains Flagg. “The vertical axis is frequency (MHz) and the horizontal axis is time (UTC).” All of the horizontal lines corresponding to terrestrial radio stations vanished in the aftermath of the flare.

The active region responsible for the flare rotated off the solar disk yesterday, so even if it flares again, another radio blackout is unlikely this weekend. NOAA forecasters estimate the odds of an X-flare on April 26th to be a scant 1%.

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Space .com

Sun Unleashes Major Solar Flare (Video)

An X1.3-class solar flare (far right) erupts from the surface of the sun on April 24, 2014 EDT  (April 25 GMT).

An X1.3-class solar flare (far right) erupts from the surface of the sun on April 24, 2014 EDT (April 25 GMT).
Credit: NASA/Solar Dynamics Observatory

X-class flares top the scale with the most energy and potential to disrupt communications on Earth.

X-class flares top the scale with the most energy and potential to disrupt communications on Earth. See how solar flares compare to each other in this Space.com inforgraphic.
Credit: Karl Tate, SPACE.com Contributor

 

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by Dr. Tony Phillips.

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