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Space Science

Approaching Solar Storm Forces ISS to Take Cover 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-comes-the-sun dept.
vichyschwa writes "A Coronal Mass Ejection resulting from an X3 Solar Flare earlier today is forcing the ISS and Shuttle astronauts to take cover and may result in communication disruptions. Last week, the same sunspot generated what astronomers described as a rarely imaged solar tsunami. The activity began with an X9 flare Dec. 5. According to Spaceweather.com, "satellites may experience some glitches and reboots, but astronauts are in no danger." However, the astronauts were ordered to a protective area of the space station as a precaution."
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Approaching Solar Storm Forces ISS to Take Cover

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @11:03PM (#17232662)
    When they can get cool powers like the Fantastic Four?
  • "...described as a rarely imaged solar tsunami.." SURF'S UP!!!!.......oh, wait......
  • X2 vs X9 (Score:5, Informative)

    by andphi (899406) <phillipsam AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @11:13PM (#17232700) Journal

    I was confused by this, so I looked it up.

    From the Wikipedia article on Solar Flares: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_Flare [wikipedia.org]

    Solar flares are classified as A, B, C, M or X according to the peak flux (in watts per square meter, W/m2) of 100 to 800 picometer [wikipedia.org] X-rays [wikipedia.org] near Earth, as measured on the GOES [wikipedia.org] spacecraft. Each class has a peak flux ten times greater than the preceding one, with X class flares having a peak flux of order 10-4 W/m2. Within a class there is a linear scale from 1 to 9, so an X2 flare is twice as powerful as an X1 flare, and is four times more powerful than an M5 flare. The more powerful M and X class flares are often associated with a variety of effects on the near-Earth space environment. Although the GOES classification is commonly used to indicate the size of a flare, it is only one measure.

    • X-ray flux raw data (Score:5, Informative)

      by dtmos (447842) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:46AM (#17234016)
      Real-time X-ray flux data is available here [noaa.gov]. A good site (for BOFHs or just curious laypeople) on this subject is SpaceWeather [spaceweather.com].
      • by andphi (899406)
        Thanks for the information. This has been an interesting week for the space sciences, I think, between the flares, the shuttle launch (I wonder if they could have missed some of this storm if they had launched sooner), and the publication of the Mars and Titan topography stuff.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by cluckshot (658931)

      Here is another reality regards these CME's and flares. The matter in them leaves the sun and accelerates rapidly upon exiting the sun. This isn't like the acceleration of a gun. In a gun once the bullet leaves the gun, it begins slowing down. In a CME the matter gets faster and faster on the way out like it was riding a railgun track all the way out. The matter in these X-Class flares left the sun and in about 16 hours are reaching the earth. They left the sun at a velocity that was a few thousand m

    • Each class has a peak flux ten times greater than the preceding one, with X class flares having a peak flux of order 10-4 W/m2. Within a class there is a linear scale from 1 to 9, so an X2 flare is twice as powerful as an X1 flare, and is four times more powerful than an M5 flare.

      Bad math at work. By the scale listed, an M9 would be four times more powerful than an M5, so there is no way an X2 is four times more powerful than an M5. An X2 should be 7 times more powerful than an M5. (M6-M7-M8-M9-X-X1-X2)

  • Take Cover? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kenshin (43036) <kenshinNO@SPAMlunarworks.ca> on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @11:15PM (#17232708) Homepage
    "A Coronal Mass Ejection resulting from an X3 Solar Flare earlier today [CC] is forcing the ISS and Shuttle astronauts to take cover..."

    I may be reading something wrong, or just may not know the exact details, but how exactly would the ISS "take cover"? Aside from the orbital path around the earth, there's little to hide under up there.
  • by ServerIrv (840609) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @11:20PM (#17232734)

    It's friday, so I get into work early, before lunch even. The phone rings. Shit!
    I turn the page on the excuse sheet. "SOLAR FLARES" stares out at me. I'd better read up on that. Two minutes later I'm ready to answer the phone.
    "Hello?" I say.
    "WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, I'VE BEEN TRYING TO GET YOU ALL MORNING?!"
    I hate it when they shout at me early in the morning. It always puts me in a bad mood. You know what I mean.
    "Ah, yes. Well, there's been some solar activity this morning, it always disrupts electronics..." I say, sweet as a sugar pie.
    "Huh? But I could get through to my friends?!"
    "Yes, that's entirely possible, solar activity is very unpredictable in it's effects. Why last week, we had some files just dissappear from a guys account while he was working on it!"
    "Really?"
    "Straight Up! Hey, do you want me to check your account?"
    "Yes please, I've got some important stuff in there!"
    "Ok, what's your username..."
    He tells me. Honestly, it's like shooting a fish in a barrel. Twice. With an Elephant Gun. At point blank range. In the head.

    • by djupedal (584558) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @11:39PM (#17232844)
      Have you EVER shot at a fish in a barrel? Two times? With an elephant gun? At point blank range? In their shiny little slimy head?

      Word to the wise. I'm here to tell you that you only need to do this once to appreciate the benefit of a good barrel when fish shooting. I mean, unless you have some pretty large fish (especially in the head area), and a pretty small caliber weapon, you are at risk of not only offing the fish, but you are also liable to put an NRA certified water-draining hole in your barrel. Now me, I use fish-shooting barrels from the Ukraine, and I've never had an issue with water stained carpets.

      Try explaining it to your significant other when they get home. "Have you been discharging weapons inside the apartment, again...?" - "Don't we recall what happened when you put the dartboard up on the wall at the end of the hall and shot at it with your new Glock? That little-bitty bullet went thru the dart board and the wall and all four of your alpaca sweaters hanging up on that end of the closet...right?"
      • Woops - sorry, bloody mac trackpad. Hopefully this reply will remove the accidental offtopic moderation.
      • recall what happened when you put the dartboard up on the wall at the end of the hall and shot at it

        I actually did this whilst at university, only against a door instead of a wall. The door in question was the front door, as this was the only corridor long enough to act as a range.

        Although in the UK we only had air/CO2 powered pellet guns (albeit with 150m/s+ muzzle velocity, proper target pistols not BB guns), the stupidity of the situation did eventually dawn on us when the pizza guy rang the doorbell.
        • Re:(OT) (Score:5, Funny)

          by h4rm0ny (722443) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @07:19AM (#17234592) Journal

          Had a friend at university who used to throw knives and had a target drawn on his door. He was chucking a knife at it when his room mate walked in a fraction of a second after he'd thrown it. So we're all sitting there in stunned silence as this door swings shut behind him with a knife positioned right behind his head and he looks at us all and says "What's the matter with you lot?"

          The difference between funny and death is very fine sometimes.
      • by ScentCone (795499) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @08:12AM (#17235012)
        Word to the wise. I'm here to tell you that you only need to do this once to appreciate the benefit of a good barrel when fish shooting.

        Actually, shooting a high-powered rifle, while looking down at close range, into standing water is ... a really bad idea. Presuming that you really ARE talking about an "elephant gun [wikipedia.org]," the amount of energy being released is really quite astounding. Depending on the round you're using, you could be delivering over 8,900 foot pounds of muzzle energy [wikipedia.org]. With that projectile doing 2,000 feet per second into a barrel of water right in front of you, some interesting things are going to happen. Supersonic hunks of metal of that size tend to create some interesting cavitation effects in enclosed bodies of liquid (especially when enclosed by wooden slats!).
        • ...so the fish is dead, right? :)
          • by ScentCone (795499)
            ...so the fish is dead, right? :)

            Well, I don't think you'd actually be able to FIND the fish, but for most people that would qualify as dead, even though it's really more like MIA.
            • by geekoid (135745)
              Who are you, Shroedinger?
              • by ScentCone (795499)
                Who are you, Shroedinger?

                See, a lot of people wouldn't get the whole Shrodinger's Fish In A Barrel reference. At least, I don't think so. You never know. Maybe it's a Heisenberg thing.
                • ...so your saying, it only works with catfish? :)
                  • by ScentCone (795499)
                    ...so your saying, it only works with catfish? :)

                    Quantum catfish. They're bottom-quark feeders.

                    *smacks self in head to stop this, now!*
      • Have you EVER shot at a fish in a barrel?

        No, but these guys [youtube.com] have done the next best thing.
    • by Vskye (9079)
      Mod the parent up. LMAO! ;)

      (I guess you have to appreciate the BOFH series) And yes, I'm a former systems admin.
  • "...and may result in communication disruptions."

    A disruption in communications can mean only one thing...invasion!
    • by empaler (130732)
      Since we don't have a crappy, third rate space fleet parked around our planet, I guess you're doubly wrong.
      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        You sure about that?
      • by chrish (4714)
        And even if we did, there'd be nothing to fear... pop off a nuke above the robotic assault forces (ground forces? who uses ground forces?!) and watch the EMP take them out.

        Where's your army of slapstick robots now, fish men?
        • I've always wondered about sci-fi with grunt deployments - why the fuck risk the lives of countless of your own citizens when you can just nuke the other planet? Even better, send a few meteors their way. If you're really good, you can make it hard to trace, even.
  • Oh dear (Score:4, Funny)

    by Whiteout (828544) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @11:23PM (#17232766)
    A Coronal Mass Ejection resulting from an X3 Solar Flare earlier today

    Too much Mexican beer after a day on the beach, perhaps.
  • by chanrobi (944359) on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @11:34PM (#17232828)
    CNN, the shuttle should be able to escape it! http://shogun.shafted.com.au/temp/cnnsucks.jpg [shafted.com.au]
    • by teebob21 (947095)
      I remember watching that CNN coverage, and I noticed the same tagline when it came up. It was quickly corrected to "speed of sound" but still...I'm glad someone got it on film, and now that's on my hard drive for all eternity. Thanks :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 13, 2006 @11:38PM (#17232840)
    So why don't they make satellites out of the stuff astronauts are made of?
    • by DoubleRing (908390) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:20AM (#17233022)
      Because, um, we can't? I doubt organic computing has advanced far enough. Last I heard, a mouse brain could auto-pilot a plane, but I don't think that is what scientists are really worried about. A few brief glitches doesn't justify making the enormous investment to create not only wholly organic computers, but completely organic sensors (like gyroscopes. How are we going to make an organic version of that?) We don't have the knowledge or the means to do it. Besides, I have a feeling that an organic satellite would have more problems in space than a mechanical one. A mechanical one would have to worry about a few solar storms and collisions, both of which are only intermittent concerns. Organic satellites would have to worry about a lot of things, like solar wind which would be constantly ablating the surface (think sunburn). An organic satellite would need to feed itself. The only organic means of converting sunlight into energy that I can think of requires a steady supply of water and carbon dioxide. Out of curiosity, how would we communicate with it? Moving on, I guess you could say that an organic satellite could heal itself. A big plus, until you realize that means that it can also develop cancer. I know, it sounds retarded, but there's a lot of radiation in space. Even with shielding, that's a lot of exposure. Instead of having to go on missions to replace a faulty sensor or transmitter, we'll need to send missions to perform surgeries in zero gravity. Sounds fun.

      Anyways, all of these concerns are a little academic, especially considering the fact that they don't exist!
      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        especially considering the fact that they don't exist!
        As far as you know! The military have been experimenting with dolphins in space for decades!

      • >like gyroscopes. How are we going to make an organic version of that?

        You've been carrying around examples your entire life. Fluid-filled loops, one for each axis, little hairs along the inside to detect fluid rotation.

        Try this. Sit up straight in a swivel chair, kick it into a spin, maintain the spin until you get used to it. Then quickly lean forward. You will then know exactly how a gyroscope feels when you try to tilt it. Have a bucket handy or do it on an empty stomach.

        Besides, look how well organic
      • (like gyroscopes. How are we going to make an organic version of that?)

        It's called the inner ear. We know it's exact shape, we know it's filled with fluid and we know that's how we can tell with our eyes closed if we're upside-down, sideways, etc. The iner ear is our balance mechanism and we don't need three axises when we can have a spiral canal filled with fluid do the same thing with proper sensors attached.

        The other stuff, though, I can't think of an answer to, mins the "organic" part. Organic (
        • Re:How?? Easy. (Score:5, Informative)

          by DoubleRing (908390) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @04:39AM (#17233988)
          It's called the inner ear. We know it's exact shape, we know it's filled with fluid and we know that's how we can tell with our eyes closed if we're upside-down, sideways, etc. The iner ear is our balance mechanism and we don't need three axises when we can have a spiral canal filled with fluid do the same thing with proper sensors attached.
          Wrong. As someone else pointed out, the inner ear depends on gravity a great deal. Why do they call the zero-grav training plane the "vomit rocket?" There's also a flight training exercise where an instructor and a student go together into a plane with an obscured canopy so they can't see outside. The instructor flips the plane upside down at a speed so that the centripetal force of the plane remains at 1 G. When they change the controls to the student, a lot of them end up never realizing they are upside down until the instructor tells them. The point is to trust your instruments. If you're flying in bad weather, you can't trust your inner ear, but you can trust the gyroscope.
          • by Khyber (864651)
            I guess you've enver seen the video of the cat in Zero G. Tehy fliped that plane around so many times, yet the cat could tell exactly which way it was oriented. We can do the same thing, (take Aikido and you'll start understanding what I'm talking about, when your body flips three times before hitting the ground. Good martial artists can instinctively accomodate for unexpected physical positions. While the fluid needs gravity, in a zero-g environment, your flippign around still creates a "micro-gravity" (no
          • by stormhair (718450)
            Why do they call the zero-grav training plane the "vomit rocket?"

            I think it's called the "vomit comet" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vomit_comet [wikipedia.org] - although I quite like "vomit rocket" :-)

      • by dr_d_19 (206418)
        ...but completely organic sensors (like gyroscopes. How are we going to make an organic version of that?) We don't have the knowledge or the means to do it

        Ehm... *cough* [wikipedia.org]
  • When we have recreational vehicles using solar sails that is.

    (No, you don't need to point out how that is only maybe possible for the moments before destruction when reasonaby close to a supernova.)
  • sweet! (Score:4, Funny)

    by TheWart (700842) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:23AM (#17233034)
    I would hate to be the guy that has to look like The Thing after this passes.
  • Gee can we say Fantastic Four anyone... (hope they got a hot chick to play Sue Richards)...
  • Err.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by malkir (1031750) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @01:41AM (#17233280)
    The only thing I'd want to 'take cover' of is a very particular part of my body which does not react well long-term to radiation. Think of the children!
    • by aussie_a (778472)
      We are. That's why we would be saving any from having you as a parent.
    • by Korin43 (881732)
      Come on, we saw what happened when space radiation effected only 4 people. Imagine how awesome it would be to have a million "fantastic" sperm!
    • According to a recent article in Scientific American, protection from radiation in space is a depressingly hard problem. Basically, the only protection known to work is to put a great many atomic nuclei in the way of the radiation. The irony is that a thin shield, such as a space station wall, may be worse than no shield at all: It stops low-energy particles, but when hit by the really nasty high-energy particles (that are out there in great numbers) secondary radiation is produced, that is in many cases mo
      • by malkir (1031750)
        Whoa! I didn't know that, good read :]
      • You will find that astronauts fall into one of two categories: Those who choose to shield their heads and those who choose to shield something else. They are easily told apart during a solar storm by their bodies pointing in opposite directions.

        You'd think those who want to shield "something else" would leave a sample "in the bank" just as Lance Armstrong did.
  • global warming.
  • by h2g2bob (948006) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @02:31AM (#17233490) Homepage
    I thought it said "Approaching Solar Storm Forces IIS to Take Cover"

    Oh well.
    • by clark0r (925569)
      we could only hope that IIS would be blown out of existance by the power of god. unfortunately we let 12 year old kids with perl scripts do it instead, slower but more entertaining.
  • The space shuttle/station currently has a problem with Word virus. They haven't found a solution to it yet so they have banned attachment in email to and from the computers on board the shuttle. Maybe they could rely on the solar storm to wipe all Word documents from their computer?
    It was funny to listen to the space shuttle commander asking mission control: "Do you have any solution to.... I don't know if i should say this.... virus problem we have with Word documents?". Maybe they try to keep a lid on it
    • "They'd be better off if they'd used OpenOffice/Linux/BSD" - and I don't think that comment is inappropriate at all. With the defined file format of ODF scanning for problems is easier, and you can choose to zap any macros because they're a separate file in the ODF zip file..

      And I would personally not want to load up the Shuttle comms circuits with the volume of patches required to keep Windows safe - stupid..
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by LupeSpywalper (713932)
      Just an update on the space shuttle virus situation. It seems NASA have cleaned their computers of the viruses that prevented the astronauts from receiving email attachments. At the end of this mornings wake up call, the Capcom gave this comment: "And most importantly: You are go for Outlook!". So this shows that if you just put all the best scientists in your country on the task, it is actually possible to use Outlook safely.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Approaching Solar Storm Forces! ISS to Take Cover!

    Growing numbers of Solar Storm Troopers stationed
    on Moon Base Alpha are said to be behind the recent
    NASA announcement that the ISS shall relocate to the
    dark side of the moon until further notice. The Solar
    Empire has issued a statement to the effect that Moon
    Base Alpha inhabitants are experiencing an increase
    in crime thus necessitating the extra troops and denying
    any suggestion of a planned station to station invasion.
    The UN has called on the Solar Empire to
  • Sure, it sounds crazy, but professional remote viewers have been predicting this for some time. Conveniently, they sell a DVDs on how to save your own ass. I'll save you $400 and say that your best advice is to get WAY underground when you hear of a space shuttle being hit by some sort of small projectile in space (like a pebble). This is the nearest preceeding event to the big solar flare that will nuke us. /crazy rant.
  • How does this (and other [bbc.co.uk]) troubles affect their schedule? I recall this story [slashdot.org] about how the shuttle can't be in operation during a year change. When are they scheduled to land? How close will it be?
  • It's just sad how the irresponsible portrayal of the Sun God in Mel Gibson's irresponsible and exploitative movie has endangered these astronauts, the planet's finest.
  • X3 is nothing.. (Score:3, Informative)

    by slashkitty (21637) on Thursday December 14, 2006 @12:43PM (#17239792) Homepage
    I don't even know why this is news. Sun activity is very low right now, we're at the bottom of the cycle right now: http://www.sec.noaa.gov/SolarCycle/ [noaa.gov]

    A few years ago we had that X28 flare!

    • by pla (258480)
      I don't even know why this is news. Sun activity is very low right now, we're at the bottom of the cycle right now: http://www.sec.noaa.gov/SolarCycle/ [noaa.gov]
      A few years ago we had that X28 flare!


      It counts as news because CMEs occur with equal probability in all directions.

      The Earth, from the Sun, counts as a very very VERY small target - Given a straight-line probability of hitting us, the Earth only occupues 0.00005% of vectors heading outward from the Sun. Granted, a CME takes the form of a rather large

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