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Space Science

Predicting Space Weather 97

Posted by Hemos
from the but-don't-use-space-based-lasers dept.
eldavojohn writes "Recently, a new discovery has been made explaining how & predicting when space weather occurs. Hopefully this will allow us to predict when and where these extreme forces of magnetic flux occur so that we can prepare to repair satellites or shut them down for safety reasons. Recent activities on the sun have surprised scientists including the explosive "solar tsunami" that happened last week. From the article, "The new study shows that the Northern Lights, also called aurora, and other space weather near Earth are driven by the rate at which the Earth's and Sun's magnetic fields connect, or merge, and not just by the solar wind's electric field. The merging occurs way out in space, at a spot between the Earth and Sun, roughly 40,000 miles above our planet's surface. Researchers have now developed a formula that describes the merging rate of the magnetic field lines and accurately predicts 10 different types of near-Earth space weather activity, such as the aurora and magnetic disturbances.""
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Predicting Space Weather

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  • by JeepFanatic (993244) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:23PM (#17196478)
    I have enough problems getting accurate forecasts for my LOCAL weather. How am I supposed to trust the "Space Weatherman"?
    • Re:Space Weather (Score:4, Informative)

      by uab21 (951482) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:33PM (#17196626)
      I know that you were shooting for funny there, but actually it should be easier to predict this than your local weather. It is a much simpler system (two objects of interest) with reasonably well understood rules at the scale of interest. Local weather, OTOH, is influenced by a much more complex system (the global atmosphere) with myriad influences (many heat sources, water sources, pressure variations, friction), multi-phase flows, as well as poorly understood rules at influential scales (turbulence - see the Navier-Stokes millenium problem). I would think that this sytem would lend itself to accurate prediction far more easily (now getting enough accurate data to make that prediction may be where the difficulty lies, currently)
      • by crumley (12964) *

        Space weather may be a slightly simpler system than terrestrial weather, but terrestrial weather has one huge advantage which you alluded to. We have many in situ observations on Earth. The largest problem with understanding what is going on in space is that, we never have enough data. There are very few spacecraft taking measurements, particularly measurements outside of geosynchronous orbit.

        In some sense you are right that there are only two objects of interests for Space Weather (the Earth and the S

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by The_Wilschon (782534)
        Plasmas, even very rarefied ones like the solar atmosphere, are very complex and chaotic systems. The atmosphere (of Earth) is subject to the laws of hydrodynamics. The solar atmosphere (the domain of space weather) (and yes, the solar atmosphere does extend out quite far, way past Earth's orbit) is subject to the laws of Magnetohyrdodynamics [wikipedia.org]. I would say that space weather ought to be immensely more difficult to predict. You have essentially one source of heat, but sources of magnetic fields are plent
        • by uab21 (951482)
          Thanks - Shows to go ya what discipline snobbery gets you. You get all the fun of the N-S equations coupled with Maxwell's equations to give you non-gravitational body forces throughout your domain of interest. At the rather low densities of interplanetary space, however, what kind of Reynolds numbers are normal? Can you at least assume laminar flow? (although the wiki appears to say that solar flares occur when the simplifying assumptions used break down... always a bitch when the 'easy' way to solve p
          • I'm afraid I don't know much more than I have said already... Not my field (which is HEP). If you like, email me at Jon und_erscore Wilson2 (yes that's a '2', the numeral) a@t DONTbaylorSPAMME do.t eduCATIONAL, and I'll give you the emails of a couple of profs in our department who do plasma physics, specifically space plasma physics. They aren't the leaders of the field, that's for sure, and space plasma physics isn't the only thing they do, but they know more than I do.

            I agree, the N-S equations are
        • At risk of being called a troll ---> I am going to do a decent kind open discussion of what is known. This usually gets called troll on this forum. ---> It isn't troll rest assured!

          There has been developing a serious discussion in the IEEE [lanl.gov] and in other groups of scientists who work with really hard science that cosmology as we have been generally told is just wrong. In particularly the electrical engineering technology provides accurate scalable and reliable methods and models to predict what is go

          • I am a physicist, and I have been to cosmology conferences (for instance PASCOS 2006 at Ohio State University) (although my field is High Energy Physics, which incidentally not only depends on special relativity, but has provided a lot of the compelling evidence in favor of SR), and I do attest that the parent is in fact a troll, or at best, someone who has been really taken for a ride.
    • by creimer (824291)
      The local weather forecast can suck at times. The forecast in my area was heavy rains a few days ago. When it sounded like it was raining pretty hard, I looked out the window to see no rain at all. Turned out it was raining into my bathtub (broken pipe from upstairs apartment). The forecast was correct but the area was wrong.
    • The 'Space Weatherman' doesn't have a bad track record.

      Though, that could change once some company [wikipedia.org] finds a market for that data.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Aqua_boy17 (962670)
      How am I supposed to trust the "Space Weatherman"?
      I know, but look at it this way. At least they'd finally deserve the title "meteorologists".
    • by danpsmith (922127)
      I have enough problems getting accurate forecasts for my LOCAL weather. How am I supposed to trust the "Space Weatherman"?

      Because...50% of the time it works, everytime!

  • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:25PM (#17196496)
    Now I'll know way in advance when to put on my lead lined underwear!
  • Wasting resources? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by bogaboga (793279)
    Instead of "wasting" time and resources in space issues, I suggest we spend some time exploring the depths of the sea. We know less than 2% of what lies under there! Maybe we can grab new medicines or even fuel to use as some form of energy. Heck the bottoms of the seas are nearer.
  • They say the view is nice, but the atmosphere stinks.
  • The research further disabuses the notion that space is empty. The region between Earth and the Sun is full of energetic particles, most of which are generated Sun. Temperatures of a few million degrees accelerate a stream of these particles, called the solar wind, to roughly one million mph.

    So, now we see charged particle interaction halfway between the Sun and the Earth? I'm guessing that we'd see similar things to varying degrees for many of the other planets too, which would tend to disagree with the n
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ScentCone (795499)
      And the universe begins to look more electric

      I don't think that theory is very well grounded. *rim-shot*

      Thank you, I'll be here all afternoon. Try the cold pizza.
    • "So, now we see charged particle interaction halfway between the Sun and the Earth?" Uhh, no. 40,000 miles is practically nothing in space. The distance to the Sun from the earth is about 1.5e11 meters, or about 2300 times more than 40,000 miles. The 40,000 mile mark is probably the front of the earth's bow shock into the solar wind. So the planets really are pretty much disconnected.
    • by khallow (566160)

      When a global dust storm that engulfed Mars coincided with the Earth's magnetosphere tail touching Mars, the coincidence was ignored because it was thought that the contact was too small to possibly be the cause of the dust storm. Maybe we should rethink this now?

      Whoa. Cite please. Is there any evidence that the Earth's magnetosphere extends that far, much less that it has actually crossed the path of Mars some time during human history?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by pln2bz (449850) *
        I don't have a citation, but it's not really the facts that are in dispute. It's the interpretation ...

        http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2005/arch05/0511 09dustmars.htm [thunderbolts.info]:

        There is also another aspect to the interplanetary circuitry affecting Mars. The greatest storm on Mars (2001) occurred when the planet was nearing perihelion and was the closest it had been to Earth in about 12 years. At that time it was also being "tickled" by the Earth's plasma sheath, or magnetosphere, establishing a temporary electric

        • by khallow (566160)

          Even though charged particles fill space and even though the electric force is the strongest force in the universe, we're told that currents cannot be moving through space to an extent that they actually *do* anything.

          First, it's not actually demonstrated that Mars passed through the Earth's magnetosphere at that point. Second, last I checked, gravity was a inverse square law, while electromagnetism was a inverse cube law or worse. The problem is that you never seen stable naked charge. It's always pair

          • Yeah, exactly. Except you mentioned in the inverse cube law, and this guy doesn't really do math. Well lemme explain it a little for him.

            Forces like magnetism and gravity fall off in different ways. Gravity falls off via the inverse square law, as does light intensity and other things. What this means, in layman's terms, is that if you double your distance from a light source, it's one quarter as intense. Double it again, and you get a quarter of that intensity. So if you're one meter from a (point) light,
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by TapeCutter (624760)
              Check out his posting history, logic and math will not alter this guy's rigid dogma.

              The EU theory preys apon the same ignorance as "Chariots of the Gods" did in the 70's. The entire "theory" is a book that uses real observations to demolish a straw man argument. The authour can be somewhat excused since he seems to be suffering from persecution complex concerning the "scientific establishment", however I do find it drepressing that he is dragging gullible people down with him.

              The best thing the GP cou
              • Yeah, but I'm trying. Really the point I was trying to impress on him was that if you don't understand math, you can't understand physics. Maybe encourage him to go learn something about magnetism and electricity and then maybe he'll apply that knowledge to that theory and see how ridiculous it is.
                • All credit for trying, I was simply warning you (and others) that this guy seems like a lost cause. As Albert once said to a journalist, "How can I tell you about baking a cake when you know nothing of butter, milk and flour."
              • by pln2bz (449850) *
                The authour can be somewhat excused since he seems to be suffering from persecution complex concerning the "scientific establishment", however I do find it drepressing that he is dragging gullible people down with him.

                But Big Bang Cosmology is still a *theory* right? I would think that open-minded people would want choices to compare and evaluate. You seem to want to deprive them of those choices by convincing others that I am misleading people even though evidence exists in support of both theories. Big
                • "I would think that open-minded people would want choices to compare and evaluate."

                  Agreed, but EU has already been compared and evaluated, in the early 60's it was found to be hoplessly inadequate compared to the currently accepted theories. Black holes and CBR were predicted by current theory and found by observation, EU theory tacked on a bit to explain them after they were discovered, see the difference yet?

                  I first met you because of a comment about global warming and you may have noticed I pay sca
                  • by pln2bz (449850) *
                    Agreed, but EU has already been compared and evaluated, in the early 60's it was found to be hoplessly inadequate compared to the currently accepted theories. Black holes and CBR were predicted by current theory and found by observation, EU theory tacked on a bit to explain them after they were discovered, see the difference yet?

                    I disagree that black holes perfectly match our observations. They were in fact theorized before jets were observed, and when jets were observed, it was then proposed that black ho
                    • by pln2bz (449850) *
                      Actually, I wanted to add to my prior comments on these points specifically ...

                      Agreed, but EU has already been compared and evaluated, in the early 60's it was found to be hoplessly inadequate compared to the currently accepted theories

                      You should note that EU Theory is not really the same as Catastrophism. Although they agree on some points -- like that Venus used to be a comet and was formed relatively recently -- EU Theory additionally explains the mechanism for how this is so. The advent of x-ray and r
          • by pln2bz (449850) *
            I've been playing devil's advocate for a while now on Slashdot mostly because it appears that people tend to repeatedly misunderstand or misstate the Electric Universe arguments. But it's also, for my many "fans" out there, an attempt to elicit effective arguments *against* Electric Universe Theory. I'm willing to admit that I can in fact be wrong, but this science isn't actually like other sciences. We don't have the level of proof for concepts like black holes, neutron stars and gravitational collapse
            • by pln2bz (449850) *
              Actually, I wanted to add something that I just ran across. From http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2005/arch05/0510 31plasma.htm [thunderbolts.info]:

              Parallel plasma filaments attract one another with a force inversely proportional to their distance apart. Compare this with gravity, which attracts matter with a force inversely proportional to the SQUARE of the distance. That makes pinched Birkeland currents by far the most effective way of condensing rarefied dust and gas to form molecular clouds and stars.

              This is the explanat

            • by khallow (566160)

              I've actually had a hell of a time just trying to get people to read documents which contradict their world view of physics, which has affected my own impression of the Slashdot crowd as being generally close-minded on the subject. Many times, people will suggest that the EU people should actually stick their necks out and make some predictions. Perhaps it's not being done to the *extent* that would be required of a real competing cosmology, but it has been attempted and they did succeed with the Deep Impa

              • by pln2bz (449850) *
                Any competing theory must explain what we actually observe and not require unobserved processes.

                Wow. You are the first person on Slashdot to apparently have read the paper. So, first of all, congratulations. It is a momentous occasion.

                Actually, I don't believe in this particular instance that this is the *only* standard for determining whether or not a cosmology deserves investigation. I can think of another standard, planetary and star formation, that would without a doubt qualify EU Theory for investi
                • by pln2bz (449850) *
                  At the risk of straining your desire to read material, I'm going to block excerpt an interesting piece on neutron stars from www.thunderbolts.info. My guess is that the thunderbolts crew will not really care so long as I include the URL, http://www.thunderbolts.info/tpod/2006/arch06/0601 23nebula.htm [thunderbolts.info]. My intention is to present an example of an alternative perspective on neutron stars, which you appear to be quite confident in. Notice how the history of the concept colors its credibility:

                  At the core of t

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by danpsmith (922127)

      Take the red pill and learn about Electric Universe Theory.

      I took the so-called "red pill" [wikipedia.org], and discovered the following: "Suffice to say for now that if science is what you are looking for, you will find none where the electric sun is concerned, save that which shows it to be an untenable hypothesis."

      Please don't push your misguided psuedo-science off as something grounded in reality. Remember, scientists look for facts and work them into theory, quacks make up a "theory" and then try to find facts to f

      • by pln2bz (449850) *
        I took the so-called "red pill", and discovered the following: "Suffice to say for now that if science is what you are looking for, you will find none where the electric sun is concerned, save that which shows it to be an untenable hypothesis."

        If you continue to read down towards the end of the article, you will see some evidence in support of EU Theory. What you have to realize is that there is evidence for and against both Big Bang and EU Theories.

        Once the Deep Impact results become official, in fact, as
  • by jrwr00 (1035020)
    Why cant they just send them up there with the proper shielding in the first place?
    • weight: every pound lofted into orbit costs more money: direct cost of the installation & materials of said shield effectiveness: do we have something sufficient that would not hinder the mission critical items aboard the sat.?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Why cant they just send them up there with the proper shielding in the first place?

      Because (in addition to the weight issue) proper shielding for solar mass ejection events makes damage from cosmic radiation FAR WORSE. The small number of horrendous-energy particles, absent shielding, mainly pass through tissue causing litte damage. But run them through a "shield" and each kicks out a storm of lower (but still high) energy charged particles that are going slow enough to each cause a LOT of interactions in
  • by aquatone282 (905179) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:29PM (#17196570)

    Researchers have found evidence that human-based carbon emissions are causing a 0.000001% increase in background radiation throughout the known universe. This man-made change will cause the extinction of life-forms on other worlds sometime in the next 50 billion years.

    Al Gore will address the United Nations at 1 p.m. with a new 123-slide PowerPoint presentation outlining the new taxes that must be implemented immediately to stop Space Warming.

  • After RTFA, I'm curious as to how far these "forecasts" would stretch.

    Even if a giant solar flare was predicted quickly and accurately, unless it was predicted early enough to give us a 10 minute warning before arrival, we're screwed.

    ...Come to think of it, even if we get a 10 minute warning of a solar flare heading our way, what exactly would be able to do about it? Still seems like we're screwed, we'll just know about it a little sooner...
    • by bizard (691544)
      I actually sat in on a lecture a few months ago by a scientist in Berkeley (don't remember where he was actually from) whose model was also accurately predicting space weather. He showed us 300 minutes of simulation and then showed us what the sun actually did during that time period and they matched very closely, so theoretically he could predict 300 minutes into the future. However, when asked how much computer time was spent to get those 300 minutes he said, "3 months...on a 2000CPU machine".

      He menti

    • by tgd (2822)
      Solar storms do not travel at the speed of light. A few hours or few days warning is a BIG deal. Large flares can knock out (and physically damage) power grids for example.

      Warnings can save lives and a LOT of money.
    • Should we put bags over our heads and lie on the floor?
  • for HAMs...

    As the space weather has a very big influence on HF propagation, information services about it have been available for many years.
    Maybe thats one of the few groups who really use such information on a day to day basis, but at least we are quite aware of the problems wich can occur during a solar storm ....

    73
    • As the space weather has a very big influence on HF propagation, information services about it have been available for many years.
      Maybe thats one of the few groups who really use such information on a day to day basis


      If I recall correctly it was RCA's international radio message service (back before transatlantic phone cables) that started space weather prediction. Different space weather means different ionospheric conditions and different bands are open or closed at intercontinental distances. Once they
  • by Tribbles (218927) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:36PM (#17196666) Homepage
    Cold again, with a distinct lack of atmosphere.
  • For the longest time, when my laptop wasn't being used, I would have it connected via serial port to my Medcom Geiger-Muller counter. I was trying to see if I could detect any spike in background radiation when a solar flare occurred. (the initial event is an X-ray burst that deionizes the ionosphere) I never did have the laptop on when one hit.
  • arecibo (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Speare (84249) on Monday December 11, 2006 @01:38PM (#17196710) Homepage Journal

    Sadly, although Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico does a lot of "space weather" kinds of analysis, its funding is in danger of being reduced to begin paying for other observational projects that are still in development. I just visited ARO last week, it's mindboggling to look at the spherical primary reflector which covers nearly twenty acres of land, and to think it might be mothballed in the near future, just as people realize the importance of space weather in their daily lives.

  • You know you're going to get space rain if you've just washed your space car or watered your space lawn.
  • Whereas normal Earth weather can produce Seasonal Affective Disorder [wikipedia.org], can space weather cause Space Madness [wikipedia.org]?.

    Sorry in advance.

    • Related to madness in space: repeatedly changing course from Altair VI to Vulcan and back can make you spacesick (pronounced "spessik").
  • Hopefully this will allow us to predict when and where these extreme forces of magnetic flux occur so that we can prepare to repair satellites or shut them down for safety reasons

    About the only thing you can do when the sun burps out a bunch of fast moving particals is fold the satellite up (solar panels) and configure the electronics for minimal use. Then you pray it doesn't get hit or take damage, but you can't shut them down. I'm not sure DirecTV customers, among others, would like this. Other than th
    • Bringing them back in is the best method for LEO satellites. Super sync is the best for geo and semi-synch as it takes too much fuel to bring them back in, fuel that could extend life for months and probably years. The risk is small, particularly if 1) enough fuel is budgeted to easily target an ocean impact and 2) if the vehicle is composed of ablatable materials (aluminum for example instead of titanium). MIR was the biggest concern due to its size. The Shuttle debris, also large in mass, was a somewh

  • I'm less concerned about space weather, than I am about SPACE MADNESS.



    Oh, my beloved Ice Cream Bar...
  • While I'm happy to see a /. posting on space weather, the linked article at space.com is more of an exercise in the perils of science writing than anything else. So don't stop the presses, don't phone your mom... What makes science writing tough is that normal-sounding words have precise meanings to those who are familiar with a field. These precise meanings aren't conveyed by normal-sounding synonyms. The first clue that this article has more enthusiasm than technical accuracy is the phrase "magnetic c
  • 'Oh what's it doing out in space today Roy?'
    'What besides just sitting there?'
    'Yes, what's it like out there?'
    'Well since I'm a scientist by trade I don't actually have the poetic capacity to put that god forsaken abyss into any sort of abstract meteorological context.. So I'm gonna have to say.. Today the forecast looks like... Horrifying abyss with lethal radiation, with a chance of being winged by a screwdriver that we left out there from the last mission.'
    'I see, and what would you reccomend'
    'For what?'
  • by Vellmont (569020) on Monday December 11, 2006 @04:43PM (#17199376)

    The merging occurs way out in space, at a spot between the Earth and Sun, roughly 40,000 miles above our planet's surface.

    40,000 miles isn't really that far, relative to what we consider "home". Geosynchronous satellites orbit at roughly 26,000 miles, and the moon orbits at more than 200,000 miles above earths surface.

    In comparison to the average Sun-Earth distance is 93 million miles, so 40,000 miles is .04% of the distance. If your neighborhood grocery store is 3 miles away, .04% of the distance would be 6 feet.
  • by autophile (640621) on Monday December 11, 2006 @06:47PM (#17201076)

    Space Weather advisory week 2006.49:

    Sunday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%

    Monday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%

    Tuesday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%

    Wednesday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%

    Thursday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%

    Friday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%. Occasional space probe passing through.

    Saturday: Highs in the upper -270K, dark. Chance of atmospheric distrubance: 0%.

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