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Space Science

Sun May Disrupt Spacecraft and Satellites In Coming Decades 70

dtjohnson writes "A newly published study (abstract) predicts that solar storms are going to become increasingly disruptive to satellites and communications in the coming decades as the sun cycles towards a minimum of activity. 'The work, published in Geophysical Research Letters, predicts that once the Sun shifts toward an era of lower solar activity, more hazardous radiation will reach Earth. The team says the Sun is currently at a grand solar maximum. This phase began in the 1920s — and has lasted throughout the space age....The evidence seems to indicate that although there are fewer solar storms once the Sun leaves its grand maximum, they are more powerful, faster and therefore carry more particles.'"
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Sun May Disrupt Spacecraft and Satellites In Coming Decades

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  • Just like Earth, a nice electromagnetic layer around spacecraft will do the trick.

  • by Binestar ( 28861 ) on Friday August 19, 2011 @04:07PM (#37147432) Homepage
    I knew Oracle buying Sun would be a bad thing, but seriously, why would they want to screw up our communication system?
    • It was prophesied to happen.

  • First the Java mess, and now this... :(

  • so I guess it also means fewer but more spectacular aurora borealis.
    • I was thinking maybe the Copper Tone Corporation could come up with a "solution?" Something like SPF 25, followed by many zeros.
  • something out of our control affects something in our control.
  • Boy... That Larry Ellison....

  • by quetwo ( 1203948 ) on Friday August 19, 2011 @05:04PM (#37148092) Homepage

    In the past few years we have seen more and more hits of our communication systems because of flare-ups from the Sun. Heck, just last year we had a pretty major television sattelite "Galaxy-11" knocked out and left for dead because of a solar flare (they have since been able to regain control of it after declaring it as space-trash and getting it ready to burn it up in the atomosphere). So much of our communications systems are tied to sattelites and long-range RF communication systems that are vunerable to these flare up that this will become more and more of a problem as time goes on...

  • The climate change deniers would certainly like there to be increased solar activity, so clearly this information has to be the product of a oil company PR department.

    We can't possibly have increased solar activity, but we can have increased interference with satellites caused by carbon emissions from power plants, cars, boats and airplanes. It must be all those stray carbon atoms that are causing problems rather than the sun.

    I suppose the CO2 from Earth could be reaching out to the Sun and causing it to i

  • So if stars have a window in which space travel is possible for life on planets in the goldilocks zone, and that window can close cutting those planets off from space travel (or severely restrict it), how does this effect the Drake Equation for being able to find other intelligent life in the universe? Life would need to advance at a rate such that it can exploit space effectively at the right time or become planet-locked.

  • It is obvious that we need to launch a multinational military expedition to subdue the Sun and bring it under control for the safety of our satellites and spacecraft.

    Of course, for the protection of our troops, this operation will have to be carried out at night.

  • Uhuh, something that hasn't ever happened yet will be a major problem in the future. Hide in fear, everyone.

    Like we'd ever let space radiation take out all of civilization. If it started to become a problem -- especially gradually over-decades if at all -- welcome to science. See a problem, work to solve it, solve it eventually. And with all of the money that would go in to solving that particular problem, I imagine it'd be solved within 2 years, which would mean that it wouldn't ever grow to be a consu

    • Umm, here is some information on the solar storm of 1859 [] that did disrupt telegraph lines as well having other spectacular effects around the world. The world is massively more wired today than it was back then so I would expect the effects on civilization to be massively greater too. Of course it's hit or miss whether we get a direct hit like we did in 1859 so maybe you're right but if we do get hit like that I expect it will take several years and maybe even a decade to fully recover from.

      I had to laugh

      • Heh, that is funny.

        It won't take years to fully recover. I'd bet that if every satelite were destroyed on the same day, within 1 month we'd have them all replaced. Think about all of the companies currently profitting from satellites. They'd all pay to get things back up and running.

        So we'd have a month of no mobile phones. You'd buy landlines. Things wolud change, drastically, for a month. It'd be fine.

        But still, it won't happen in a single day. We'd lose only half of the satellites -- the other hal

        • It won't take years to fully recover. I'd bet that if every satelite were destroyed on the same day, within 1 month we'd have them all replaced.

          My, aren't you optimistic. Do you think there are a bunch of spare satellites just laying around waiting to be launched from spare rockets waiting to launch them? Rrriiiggghhhttt! If every useful satellite in orbit were destroyed it would probably take at least 5 years to replace them. It takes more than a year just to build most of them and there's not enough production capacity to build that many at once.

          We'd lose only half of the satellites -- the other half would be shielded by an entire planet: the Earth itself.

          Many of the useful satellites are orbiting in geosynchronous orbit. Most satellites are powered b

          • Ever heard of supply-and-demand curves? Zero supply and huge demand results in enormous production capacity, immediately.

            Excess voltage in the wiring isn't stopped by electronics, it's stopped by a fuse. All household-level safety measures are physical/mechanical ones, for that very reason. My house won't burn down.

            The electric grid would most certainly fail, but any gas-generator can solve that problem. And gas generators can be built in minutes and sold door-to-door. There are even adapters to make y

            • Yes, the demand may be huge but to think that satellites could be replaced in a month or two is ridiculous. There aren't that many firms with the expertise and talent to build satellites around and it takes time to ramp up that sort of capacity.

              The electromagnetic effects of a solar flare certainly could reach your car in it's garage. They could reach the replacement electronics sitting on the shelf. It's like an electromagnetic pulse. A fuse is not necessarily going to protect you if it's strong enough

              • It is out of the realm of possibility because we're not talking about three houses catching fire. We're talking about enough houses catching fire that we need to talk about them. And that, you agree, isn't going to happen. Which means that for this conversation, it won't happen.

                Same goes for everything else. On the spectrum of insignificant to worst case scenario, the mean will be light damage. And that can be dealt with in a few months.

                My point was actually to your last statement. Earthquake and floo

                • Well, you're talking best case scenario, I'm talking worse case scenario. Actual results are likely to be somewhere in between if we get an event like the 1859 solar storm. Here's an article from March 2011 in National Geographic [] on the subject. Some of the comments are interesting too.

                • by Kagura ( 843695 )

                  It is out of the realm of possibility because . . . it won't happen.

                  It has already happened once in the Solar Storm of 1859 []. We're not sitting around discussing how we'll survive when the sun begins fusing helium in 5 billion years, or when a nearby supernova goes off in a million years, or when the Andromeda Galaxy collides with our galaxy in roughly 3 billion years, or a hypothetical impact event that occurs only once every 50 million years. We're talking about a real, non-negligible chance of a large solar flare like was witnessed 150 years ago on their primitive telegra

                  • You're not reading. We're not talking about solar storms. We're talking about solar storms wiping out technology as we know it. That, my friend, has never happened.

                    You're trying to relate an event 150-years old and compare what it might do today if... ...if it happened today ...if it happens the same way ...if nothing stops it -- like jupiter gets in the way this time ...if we understand how it would interact with today's technology ...if our observations then were accurate -- without todays instruments

        • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

          Mobile phones don't use satellites. Those are sat-phones, and you don't have one (though you could, if you cared).

          If we lost ALL the sats, we'd be pretty fucked for awhile, much longer than a month, and the replacements wouldn't be up there quickly if they were gonna get blasted again. Also note that landline transmission is as likely as a cellphone to be transferred over satellite.

          But yes, it would be recoverable. Eventually.

The absent ones are always at fault.