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Communications NASA Power Space Sun Microsystems Science

NASA Working On Solar Storm Shield 85

Zothecula writes "The solar storms that cause the stunning aurora borealis and aurora australis (or northern and southern polar lights) also have the potential to knock out telecommunications equipment and navigational systems and cause blackouts of electrical grids. With the frequency of the sun's flares following an 11-year cycle of solar activity and the next solar maximum expected around 2013, scientists are bracing for an overdue, once-in-100 year event that could cause widespread power blackouts and cripple electricity grids around the world. It sounds like an insurmountable problem but a new NASA project called 'Solar Shield' is working to develop a forecasting system that can mitigate the impacts of such events and keep the electrons flowing."
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NASA Working On Solar Storm Shield

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  • Solar Shield? (Score:4, Informative)

    by sdguero ( 1112795 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @04:44PM (#34042302)
    Seems like Solar Warning is a better name for it. It's not like they are putting something in space to shield us from anything.
  • Faraday cages (Score:2, Informative)

    by Jogar the Barbarian ( 5830 ) <greg AT supersilly DOT com> on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @04:47PM (#34042338) Homepage Journal

    If this topic has gotten you concerned about your personal stuff getting fried (if not by a CME, then by a nuclear EMP), you may want to look into constructing a Faraday cage. Here's a couple helpful links:
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100211130814AAGmUNZ [yahoo.com]
    http://forums.makezine.com/comments.php?DiscussionID=752 [makezine.com]

  • Re:Solar Shield? (Score:3, Informative)

    by s0litaire ( 1205168 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @04:47PM (#34042346)

    Didn't the UN Ban this last month... lol

  • Brilliant (Score:4, Informative)

    by simula ( 1032230 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @04:53PM (#34042428) Homepage
    Here is a much better article from the horse's mouth:

    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2010/26oct_solarshield/ [nasa.gov]

    I was feeling a little dismal about the situation until I read this report. Simply brilliant! Advanced warning so that we can unplug giant transformers and other vital and hard to replace portions of the grid before we're hit.
  • Re:Solar Shield? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @05:19PM (#34042828)
    The project is somewhat misleading in name. This isn't actually a shield of any type. It's more of a "Oh shit!" warning system. FTFA:

    When a massive burst of solar wind, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), is detected rising from the sun’s surface and headed for Earth, images from SOHO and NASA's twin STEREO spacecraft would allow a 3D model of the CME to be created and predict when it will arrive. While the CME is making its way to Earth – a trip that usually takes 24 to 48 hours (although the Carrington Event CME took just 18 hours as an earlier CME had cleared the way) – the Solar Shield team would prepare to calculate ground currents.

    About 30 minutes before impact the CME would sweep past ACE, a spacecraft stationed 1.5 million km upstream from Earth. Sensors aboard ACE would make in situ measurements of the CME’s speed, density and magnetic field and transmit this data to the Solar Shield team at the Community Coordinated Modeling Center (CCMC) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

    "We quickly feed the data into CCMC computers," says Pulkkinen. "Our models predict fields and currents in Earth's upper atmosphere and propagate these currents down to the ground." With less than 30 minutes to go, Solar Shield can issue an alert to utilities with detailed information about GICs.

  • by Delarth799 ( 1839672 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @05:22PM (#34042878)
    Yah I guess your right I mean what benefits has mankind seen from NASA sending those people into space. Well if you ignore:
    Air quality monitoring systems, Air Purification, Virtual Reality, Enriched Baby Food, Water Purification Systems, Scratch Resistant Lenses, Athletic Shoes(shock absorbing), Solar Energy, Weather Forecasting Aid, Advanced keyboards, Customer Service Software, Database Management System, Laser Surveying, Aircraft controls, Lightweight Compact Disc, Microcomputers, Wind Monitoring, Radiation Insulation, Fire Resistant Materials, Sewage Treatment, Breast Cancer Detection, Programmable Pacemakers, Digital Imaging Breast Biopsy System, Radioactive Leak Detectors, Microlasers, Engine Lubricant, Advanced welding torches, Radiation Hazard Detection, Emergency Rescue Cutters, Improved Air Tanks for Firefighters, Interactive Computer Training, Doppler Radar for storm warning, Improve Aircraft Engines, Ultrasound Scanners, Automatic Insulin Pump, Portable x-ray Device.
    (This list is only part in a long list of stuff)
    Source: http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html [thespaceplace.com]
  • Re:Electrical grids (Score:4, Informative)

    by zero_out ( 1705074 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @05:39PM (#34043086)

    These are not imaginary threats. They are very real.

    There is the solar storm of 1859 [nasa.gov] which caused fires that burned down multiple telegraph offices.

    Remember the blackout of 2003 [nerc.com]? The link is to a report straight from NERC, the power grid regulatory commission responsible for the area involved in the blackout.

    Then let's not forget about stuxnet [cnet.com] worm.

    It is painfully obvious that these are not just crazy fears. As someone who has intimate knowledge of IT systems within a major U.S. power company conglomerate, and is very close to someone who designs/tests/commissions power plant generator hardware, I can assure you that these threats are very real.

  • Re:Mitigate it? (Score:4, Informative)

    by afidel ( 530433 ) on Wednesday October 27, 2010 @05:53PM (#34043212)
    Uh, the problem from a large CME is actually blowing out all power plants, substations, and transformers. It would take years (or decades) to recover from because we don't have enough global manufacturing capacity to rebuild all the decades worth of installed equipment that might be fried. However as I stated up-thread I'm not sure how much a short warning is going to help.

There are running jobs. Why don't you go chase them?