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Space Science

Three More Solar Flares 519

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the wear-a-hat-outside dept.
Evil Adrian writes "Space.com reports that the sun shot off three more solar flares on Monday. This is quite a historic period for solar activity." The article breaks down the recent flares, and what the effects have been. Update: 11/05 01:57 GMT by T : cyberMalex writes "Space.com is reporting the 10th in a string of major solar flares which have been errupting from the sun over the past two weeks. "This one saturated the X-ray detectors on the NOAA's GOES satellites that monitor the Sun. The jury is therefore out on the definitive classification of the flare." "Other scientists have indicated the flare may indeed be an X20 or stronger. Only one X20 event has been seen in recent years, and it was not Earth-directed and had little effect.""
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Three More Solar Flares

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  • "I think the last week will go into the history books as one of the most dramatic periods of solar activity we have seen in modern time," Brekke told SPACE.com.

    ...No it wont. Doesn't anyone understand, the general public doesn't CARE about this crap. In 20 years, when people look back at this period in history, they'll see the WTC. Operation: Iraqi Freedom. The video tape of Saddam's fire-ant torture. In 100 years, They'll see the WTC. In 1000 years, they'll see America, and they'll say exactly what we s
    • You said it yourself: the general public. But ask anyone interested in astrology in, let's say, 5 years, and they'll probably remember. I do believe solar flares are pretty interesting, but I have to admit, I'm interested in it. And with me, there are many, many others.
      • I guess you meant: Astronomy. Astrology is reading the cards and take other people's money while saying bullshit about some planet alignment crap. Astronomy is the actual study of space....
      • You need to learn the difference between astrology "the planets are aligned with the wrong constellation" and astronomy ; an actual science
    • The Battle of Thermopylae, the Trojan War, the Peloponnesian War and the Punic Wars spring instantly to mind.

  • Aurora Cam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dolo666 (195584) * on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:16PM (#7387502) Journal
    From the site: Aurora Cam [space.com], which "shows the current extent and position of auroral activity in the northern hemisphere, based on measurements taken during the most recent polar pass of the NOAA POES satellite."

    Does this recent solar activity make any of you feel uneasy? I mean... is it time for Bruce Willis to suit up again and save the planet? Nine X-class solar flares... eeeek. That has to be bad.
    • by JamesD_UK (721413) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:23PM (#7387588) Homepage
      How about sending Red Adair off to the sun to cool things off a bit?
    • I've got to agree...one point no articles or scientists have addressed is "should we be concerned?" It was unprecedented to have a large flare on an off year. It was unprecedented to have a second one. And now it's unprecedented to have a whole flurry of them within a week. At what point does unprecedented become something to worry about?

      Any astrophysicists out there care to offer up any soothing words? What are the causes of solar flares? Would a large number of them signal anything of concern?

      To put suc
      • Re:Aurora Cam (Score:2, Insightful)

        by GigsVT (208848)
        Is the sun dying?!

        Does it matter?
      • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @03:33PM (#7389093)
        It was unprecedented to have a large flare on an off year. It was unprecedented to have a second one. And now it's unprecedented to have a whole flurry of them within a week.
        Well, it certainly puts to shame those naysayers who continue to insist that this is all just a natural phenomenon of some sort; that man is not to blame. You know the type, driving their SUVs to work at the coal factory. How many more "coincidences" will it take to convince them?!
    • by Shakrai (717556)
      SOLAR PAUSE? Giant sunspots 486 and 488 are about to disappear from view, carried over the western limb of the sun by our star's 27-day rotation. This means Earth-directed explosions will stop... for a while. Big sunspots often persist for many weeks. These two might reappear on the eastern side of the sun in two weeks, the time required for them to transit the far side of the sun.

      Quoted from Spaceweather [spaceweather.com] Perhaps those of us who missed out on the Auroras (BOTH times for me) due to bad weather/timing will

    • by zephc (225327) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @02:10PM (#7388158)
      "Does this recent solar activity make any of you feel uneasy?"

      No no, it's a perfectly natural, healthy thing for a star of his age to... want to experiment in self-gratification. You see, a star that age is still learning more about itself, and should be encouraged to do so, in a healthy way. Of course, our star may be doing this a bit too often right now, but it is a novelty that will soon wear off, and once he has become more accustomed to his self, he may do it a lot less. In the meantime, we here on earth must not make our Sun feel ashamed of this, merely support him, and try not to get hit in the face.
      • by dolo666 (195584) *
        "No no, it's a perfectly natural, healthy thing for a star of his age to... want to experiment in self-gratification."

        Your comparison to solar flares and masturbation made me laugh my ass off! Good job. :)

        I can picture a couple of 1950's parents, and that announcer saying things like, "It's healthy and natural to want to express your sexuality, Sun, but please do it in your own private area, not where the WHOLE WORLD can see..."
    • Does this recent solar activity make any of you feel uneasy? I mean... is it time for Bruce Willis to suit up again and save the planet? Nine X-class solar flares... eeeek. That has to be bad.

      Don't know about bad. But there was another one - a REALLY big one - about 1930 GMT / 11:30 PST / 2:30 EST. See this [noaa.gov] page for the X-ray intensity at the GEOS satellites - at least until it horizons out in a few more hours.

      Note that the peak is beyond the saturation of the instrument. BIG.
  • Biblical (Score:4, Funny)

    by GaelenBurns (716462) <gaelenb@noSpAM.assurancetechnologies.com> on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:16PM (#7387503) Homepage Journal
    I wish I had my Revelations better memorized.
    • Re:Biblical (Score:5, Funny)

      by mr_z_beeblebrox (591077) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:20PM (#7387553) Journal
      I wish I had my Revelations better memorized.

      "And the horsemen spoke "Behold 9 solar prominences" And the Earth was smited by an X15.
    • Re:Biblical (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by Dutchmaan (442553)
      I wish I had my Revelations better memorized.

      Why?
    • Re:Biblical (Score:3, Funny)

      by The Fun Guy (21791)
      So do I. The book in the Bible is "Revelation", not "Revelations". God will know his own, pal.

    • by Omega (1602) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @02:38PM (#7388472) Homepage
      Doesn't anyone else see the correlation between Arnold Schwarzenegger becoming governor of California, the Yankees losing the World Series to the Florida Marlins and the repeated solar flares? I'm counting at least 3 horsemen of the apocalypse here.
    • Re:Biblical (Score:5, Informative)

      by Theatetus (521747) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @03:07PM (#7388794) Journal

      First off: why?

      Secondly, it's Revelation or if you prefer Apocalypse (which is just Greek for "Revelation"). Books back then didn't have titles, and this one simply comes from the first word of the book.

      Thirdly, it's a very thinly-disguised mid-2nd-century political invective about the fall of Rome and Judaism and the establishment of a Christian hegemony in eastern Europe and western Asia, not the end of the world.

      Fourthly, in most modern Christian's minds it has been hopelessly confused with Daniel and John's letters (for example, most people you ask will tell you that Revelation mentions the Anti-Christ; it does not. The only biblical references to "antichrist" are in John's letters, and it's "antichrists" not "The Antichrist").

      Fifthly, the reference to the sun in Revelation is:

      "I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth" (Rev. 6:12)
      which is the exact opposite of what the sun is doing right now.

      Sixthly and lastly, memorizing books about imaginary tribal deities strikes me as an immense waste of time, but if it works for you, more power to you.

  • it.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by xao gypsie (641755) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:17PM (#7387510)
    it appears that i was right the first time. Shamash, the mesopotamian sun god is really angry. run to your ziggurats all ye heathen, and make your sacrifices it is too late and we are decimated under his awesome power!!!
    (for a niminal fee, i will be willing to act as priest...)

    xao
  • whether environmentalist might just claim this is due to global warming; i won't be surprised if they do!!!
  • by UrgleHoth (50415) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:19PM (#7387539) Homepage
    The Sun cut loose with three severe flares in less than 24 hours through Monday morning

    cut loose? Is thr journalist trying to make a gastrointestinal metaphor here?
  • Historic Period? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Grip3n (470031) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:19PM (#7387540) Homepage
    Historic period in solar flares? Sorry, I might not be all that caught up on my solar flare monitoring, but how long have we been doing that exactly? It can't be more than in the last 50 years and considering the age of the subject in question, that's not even a drop in the bucket - its an atom in the bucket. Who knows? Perhaps this is a little more regular than we originally thought. We just started getting into this. I know if I had as much gas as the Sun I'd be doing a whole lot of belching too.
    • Re:Historic Period? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:27PM (#7387634)
      Scientists have been using beryllium content in icebergs to trace the general prominence of sunspots and their activity over the last 1150 years. This activity exceeds any on that record as well.
    • Since 1976, see here [spaceweather.com].
    • Re:Historic Period? (Score:4, Informative)

      by skarmor (538124) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:32PM (#7387692)
      Sorry, I might not be all that caught up on my solar flare monitoring, but how long have we been doing that exactly?

      Richard Christopher Carrington published his Observation of the Spots of the Sun in 1863. He was observing a group of sun spots when, "...two patches of intensely bright and white light broke out."

      His description:

      "I saw I was an unprepared witness of a very different affair. I therefore noted down the time by the chronometer, and seeing the outburst to be very rapidly on the increase, and being somewhat flurried by the surprise, I hastily ran to call some one to witness the exhibition with me, and on returning within 60 seconds, was mortified to find that it was already much changed and enfeebled. Very shortly afterwards the last trace was gone. In this lapse of 5 minutes, the two patches of light traversed a space of about 35,000 miles."

      So I guess we've been monitoring solar flares for some 140 years...
    • by Gulthek (12570) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:34PM (#7387718) Homepage Journal
      We have samples from icebergs measuring beryllium-10, which give us a good picture of solar activity for the past couple thousand years or so.

      Aside from that, it's a historic period in solar flares simply because we haven't seen it happen before. Just because we don't know how common this occurence is in the full grand scheme of things, doesn't mean that it isn't noteworthy when we see it for the first time!
      • Re:Historic Period? (Score:5, Informative)

        by kevlar (13509) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @02:02PM (#7388072)
        Whats even more interesting is that there are fairly solid theories that solar flare activity is directly related to the mean global temperature. In other words, the green house effect may very well be *mostly* caused by the Sun, rather than CO2 in the atmosphere.
    • Re:Historic Period? (Score:2, Informative)

      by droovee (121611)
      Not entirely true. The CBC has an article [www.cbc.ca] today. A choice quote:

      Direct observations of sunspots go back to the early 17th century, corresponding to the invention of the telescope.

      To get data on sunspots from before observations were possible, Ilya Usoskin, a geophysicist who worked with colleagues at the University of Oulu in Finland and the Max Planck Institute in Germany, examined ice core samples from Greenland and Antarctica.

    • Re:Historic Period? (Score:4, Informative)

      by pclminion (145572) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:55PM (#7387982)
      Well, considering that the word "historic" means "within the realm of written records," then yes, this is the biggest event that has been recorded in writing. There's a reason we call the dinosaurs (as an example) "prehistoric" and not "historic." They came BEFORE written history. Since these flares are the largest recorded in written history, the term "historic" is apt.

      So yes, the Sun has most likely had numerous PREhistoric solar flare events of this magnitude. But none in recorded history. It's a historic event.

      Sincerely,
      Your local anal-retentive

    • Re:Historic Period? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Bytesmiths (718827)
      "Historic period in solar flares? Sorry, I might not be all that caught up on my solar flare monitoring, but how long have we been doing that exactly? It can't be more than in the last 50 years..."

      That's what "history" means -- as long as humans have been keeping track. Otherwise, it's known as "prehistoric," as in dinosaurs and cave men.

    • we have detailed observations using telescopes and photographic plates going back around 150 years. 24hour monitoring with satellites only goes back a decade or two (yohkoh, soho, geos, etc.)
  • In all the hundreds of years we've been going blind observing the sun, never have so many satellites been in danger. But seriously, folks. What are the odds that this sort of thing has been happening every few solar maximums, and we never noticed it before?

    At least this time I might see an aurora. Froze my arse off two nights running and all I got was, well, a frozen arse.
  • by gasgesgos (603192) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:20PM (#7387549)
    From the article:The Sun cut loose with three severe flares in less than 24 hours


    That's nothing special, I've cut loose with three severe flares in one hour before!

    Although I didn't cause pretty lights in the sky, I just cleared the room :(
  • by jaxdahl (227487) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:20PM (#7387550)
    It's the size of these flares that's unusual. Never have astronomers seen 2 Jupiter sized sunspots tranversing the sun at the same time. The number of sunspots is about normal for this time in the 11 year solar cycle. Here's a nice summary page: http://www.n3kl.org/sun/noaa.html [n3kl.org]
    • by JamesD_UK (721413) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:32PM (#7387689) Homepage
      This [nasa.gov] page from Nasa's Astronomy Picture of the day site shows some amazing images of these sun spots.
    • Yes, they're larger than everything we've previously observed but given our incredibly limited amount of data and the fact that the sun has been around for quite some time, we don't know whether or not it is unusual. It could be unusual or there could be a much longer cycle that we are completely unaware of due to our limited vision.
    • The first of the three was a Class X8 flare.

      Considering the sun nearly punched through to the next magnitude class, I wonder if it's even got a label?

      I only see classes A, B, C, M, and X in the graph on spaceweather.com. If this keeps up we might need a label for the next order of magnitude.
    • The number of sunspots is about normal for this time in the 11 year solar cycle

      No. Here's the monthly averaged daily SSNs [noaa.gov] and here's the last six daily SSNs [qsl.net] (scroll a third of the way down to see 'em). The daily SS numbers for the six day period ending on Oct. 28 were 122, 160, 139, 191, 238, and 230. The number dropped to 76 today, which is roughly normal this late in the cycle, but that's because the huge spots are rotating out of view (not to worry, they'll be back in 2 weeks). Once the monthly aver

  • by Bendebecker (633126) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:21PM (#7387567) Journal
    Another good article about this here [newscientist.com].
  • Guilt-free fun (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Malor (3658) * on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:22PM (#7387569) Journal
    One thing that I'm really enjoying about the solar flares, unlike most Earthly climate events, is that we can be absolutely certain we didn't cause it via pollution or global warming or what have you. When I see the hurricanes and tornadoes and big wildfires, there's always this nagging worry in the back of my mind that it might not be happening if we weren't spitting out all the pollution.

    But we have no effect whatsoever on the Sun, so I can sit back and watch the show guilt-free. :-)
    • by sreid (650203)
      does it affect affect &?*?23% web (_*&_(&*
    • When I see the hurricanes and tornadoes and big wildfires, there's always this nagging worry in the back of my mind that it might not be happening if we weren't spitting out all the pollution.

      Oh, yeah, they NEVER had hurricanes, tornadoes and big wildfires before the industrial age. Just the occasional divine flood, angry volcano god and periodic smiting of the sodomites.

    • I've been wondering about this. What about this scenario:

      Granted, in terms of magentic and electromagnetic fields, comparing earth to the sun is like comparing a flea to, well, the sun. The difference is immense.

      However, we've been generating a lot more EM over the last decade with more-and-more technology.

      Now, what if all of this is turning earth into a lightning rod? Think about it, we're attracting all of this with all of tech we've got, and some that we don't know about (scientific experiments, cy
      • The direction of a flare is determined by the direction that the portion of the sun is pointing at when it's released. That's not going to be the closest point to the Earth, because the Earth has to go around in it's orbit for a couple of days before the flare hits us.
    • and I'm sitting here wondering if these solar flares are really effecting our weather here as well. It's Nov. 4, and I'm sitting outside in shorts and a t-shirt because we're in the mid-70s in Missouri!
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:22PM (#7387576)
    I suggest that nerds everywhere strip off their clothes and go outside. The resulting flare of brightness should knock those coronal mass ejections away from the Earth.

    Either we do that or we cover the planet in SPF 45 lotion.
  • Historic Period? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pizen (178182) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:22PM (#7387582)
    This is quite a historic period for solar activity.

    How so? The Sun has been around a lot longer than we've been monitoring it. This could be nothing in the Sun's history.
  • ...and I bet you geek STILL don't get a tan. :)
  • Got Sol? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dukeluke (712001)
    Well, I must say that I'm slightly more interested in the solar activities of recent due to my Astronomy class at college.

    This is a very interesting time for the scientist within each of us - we can see first hand the importance of Earth's magnetic field - as well as the cause/effect of the solar flare upon our power plants, satellite dishes, and yes - our Astronaut up in the International Space Station.
  • aurora (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rumagent (86695) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:28PM (#7387655)
    I always find it fascinating, when the universe demonstrates just how small and insignificant we really are... that, and watching aurora is a great way of getting kids interested in astronomy.

  • by Otter (3800) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:37PM (#7387748) Journal
    What's up with the Northern Lights we've been promised? I'd love to see them without an expensive trip to freeze my ass off in Nunavut but haven't seen any useful information on when and where to look.

    Anyone seen them after these recent storms? Is there a good site for information?

    • by FrostedWheat (172733) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:52PM (#7387949)
      Here you go:

      http://www.sec.noaa.gov/pmap/index.html [noaa.gov]

      That shows the current aurora activity for both poles. Click on the one nearest to you and wait until there's some activity near you :)

      Even if the activity looks quite far from you, check anyway. We had lots of aurora visable here even tho the map showed it about a hundred miles away.
    • by Bob(TM) (104510)
      Here's the Auroral Activity Map [noaa.gov] from the Space Environment Center.

      At least one of the recent geomagnetic events began just after dawn where I live, so that chance was pretty much shot. Others were overcast or inconvenient (check out the GOES magnetometer [noaa.gov] for times when the magnetic field was disturbed)

      It helps to be in a really dark area - light pollution in a city will just about kill any chance of seeing it. The only time I ever saw it (the '89 geomagnetic storm event), I went out specifically determi
    • by jafuser (112236)
      There's a picture of aurora on spaceweather.com taken by someone in Orlando, Florida. In addition, I saw an aurora during the previous cycle about a hundred miles south of Orlando. It was mostly just a reddish haze that slowly changed in intensity, but it was reported the next day as a rare aurora event.

      I'm even further south now, so I obviously don't watch for them much. Perhaps I may keep a closer eye on the spaceweather site to see if I can catch one again =)
    • by overunderunderdone (521462) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @03:15PM (#7388884)
      I saw one in Rhode Island last thursday night around 7:00. It was very dim and at first I just thought it was light pollution I always notice from the town north of me. But after a while it became more distinct and had that characteristic aurora shimmering and shifting. It was still so dim that I was half convinced it was only my over active imagination until a friend called to tell me to go out an look at it.
  • THE SUN IS EXPLODING!!!!!

    RUN AWAY! RUN AWA - What? oh, yeah, that's a good thing. Sorry 'bout that folks. Won't happen again. I'll just go find another catastrophe to panic about...

    -Adam
  • by Captain McCrank (583414) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:52PM (#7387947)
    Sun on Fire, Unleashes 3 More Major Flares

    Scott McNealy is such a fucking loose cannon. When will his handlers reign in his hockey-rage?

    FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN, PLEASE STOP SCOTT!

  • What a wonderful coincidence, this event is what we can blame for all that XXX porn on our office PCs. "Hey boss, it was a solar flare put those on my hard drive, I didn't click on any of those websites, honest!"
  • by praedor (218403) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @01:57PM (#7388007) Homepage

    to pull his head out and finally declare the Sun a terrorist? We should be lobbing bombs back at the Sun for firing on us not just once, but 3 or 4 times! Direct shots, no glancing blows. This obvious aggression against the US cannot be tolerated anymore.


    Nuke the Sun!

    hh
  • I'm reading this book [slashdot.org] right now and this is how the whole "end of the world" stuff starts....

  • Solar Observations (Score:4, Insightful)

    by evilpenguin (18720) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @02:35PM (#7388426)
    I'm no solar scientist, but I don't think it is even remotely reasonable for anyone to say anything about the sun is "unprecedented." The percentage of the sun's life that human beings have been observing has to be less than 0.01%

    Maybe everything we've seen up to now has been atypical and this represents a return to the norm.
    • by Jerf (17166)
      Why pull a number out of your ass when you can pull a number off of the back of an envelope? ;-)

      10,000 years of the human race / 10,000,000,000 years of the sun existing =~ .0001% .

      I pulled the sun's age from memory and where you draw the line for "the human race" is somewhat a matter of choice, but it should be within a magnitude and a half, which is all that matters here.

      Gets even worse if you want to talk about humans really observing the sun and not merely looking at it; guesstimate 100 years and dro
  • Also today: (Score:3, Funny)

    by sharkey (16670) on Tuesday November 04, 2003 @09:06PM (#7392014)
    Seemingly, there is no reason for these extraordinary, intergalactical upsets. Only Dr. Hans Zarkov, formerly of NASA, has provided any explanation.

    This Mondays unprecedented solar flares are no cause for alarm.

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