A little more about that X-Class solar flare

Big Sun Burp
Big Sun Burp

Yesterday the sun unleashed a big X-class solar flare, aimed directly at Earth. Today the NOAA has issued a couple of interesting alerts related to the incoming geomagnetic storm expected from the flare, indicating:

  • Power system irregularities are possible.
  • GPS navigation may be affected by loss-of-lock
  • We may be able to see aurora as far south as Pennsylvania, Iowa and Oregon.

A slightly more recent alert says that an “enhancement in the energetic portion of the solar radiation spectrum may indicate increased biological risk to astronauts or passengers and crew in high latitude, high altitude flights.” There may also be “increased risk to all satellite systems.”

Make no mistake, there’s no reason to actually expect massive planetwide electric doom from the storm, but it’s worth noting that the Great Solar Storm of 1859 (also called the Carrington Super Flare), which struck a far less networked, electronic planet, was nevertheless a real sonofabitch on the few systems in place at the time. Aurorae were seen in areas that never normally witness the phenomenon and telegraph operators reported electric shocks and sparks flying from telegraph poles. Weirdly, some telegraphs even continued sending messages even after their power was shut off.

Don’t fly, buy paper maps and don’t rely on satellites for a day or so, you’ll be fine. Also don’t be an astronaut.

Good talk.

[Space Weather Alerts]

Polar Vortex, Solar Flare, a Winter Salad of Doom

Hey, this is fun–as the northern hemisphere shuddered in the throes of the icy grip of the Polar Vortex, the Sun decided to remind us all who is really the real big cheese in this solar system and threw an X-class flare our way! SpaceWeather.com reports: “Giant sunspot AR1944 erupted on Jan 7th at approximately 1832 UT, producing a powerful X1-class solar flare. First-look coronagraph images from the STEREO-Ahead spacecraft appear to show a coronal mass ejection (CME) emerging from the blast site. If so, the CME is almost certainly heading for Earth.” The X-Flare won’t cook us or anything, but it’s worth notice, because they can be “major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms.”[SpaceWeather.com]