Sunday, 19 August 2012

Dark Side Of The Sun


Dark Side Of The Sun

A rare Solar Storm is forecast to stretch from 2012-2013 when the Sun’s 22-year magnetic energy cycle coincides with its 11-year peak in super-powered solar activity.The Sun is a kind of star referred to as a magnetic variable, and it experiences varying levels of magnetic activity, meaning we also see fluctuating periods of activity on the solar surface .

This happens in  periodic cycles of roughly 11 years and an increase in magnetic activity heralds the start of a new cycle in 2011. This is known as a solar maximum, at which time sun spots and solar flares burst into life with a vengeance.  


Credit: David Hathaway, NASA/MSFC

  • Sunspots are large magnetic areas on the solar surface; they are sources of solar flares, coronal mass ejections and intense UV radiation.
  • Solar flares could cause power grids to overheat, causing our electricity-dependant lives to go into meltdown. Sat nav’s and air travel will also be hit as major satellites stop working, when the Sun reaches a frenzied frequency of sun spots.

Modern technology cannot, with any accuracy envisage what may follow next. This uncertainty lies in a very simple fact: No one fully understands the underlying physics of the sunspot cycle.Solar flares and “coronal mass ejections” (CME’s) are the driving force behind Solar Storms, and can hurl billions of tonnes of super-charged particles and radiation hurtling towards our world which has the effect of causing power surges and communication disruptions.

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  • By London 2012 Olympics, such effects could already be occurring producing city-wide power cuts and disruptions in broadcasting as a result of satellites going out of action.
  • As with a lightning bolt Solar flares cause a sudden and rapid change in the Earth’s magnetic fields on Earth – The Solar Effect. If this up and coming Solar Storm is powerful enough it could cause more damage than Hurricane Katrina.

“We know it’s coming, but we don’t know how bad it’s going to be…” ~ Dr Richard Fisher, Head of NASA’s Heliophysics Divison

  • NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory a 4.5 m craft will help scientist understand the complex systems that drive the Sun’s magnetic field, is designed to capture images of the Sun in 10x more detail than it has been possible to achieve up until now.  It has the ability to capture every 10 seconds and in 8 wave-lengths images in Hi Definition . It is intended to study the solar atmosphere and also to delve deep beneath the chaotic surface to gather information regarding  the tumultuous under layers .

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  • Set for launch in 2017 the European Space Agency’s Sun Explorer “Solar Orbiter,” hopes to embark on a 3.4 year journey to the Sun. Total mission length 6-7 years. It will pass closest to the Sun every five months which will allow it a few days for a unique view of the solar surface and also allowing it to study the storms in the solar atmosphere that build up.

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  • Equipped with a “heliospheric imager” it will be able to keep track of CME’s (coronal mass ejections) which in 1989 knocked out Canada’s electricity grid leaving millions without power. It will also have an ion spectrograph which will monitor any other forms of energetic particles thrown out from the Sun.

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