Solar Flare Death Extravaganza

Is it just me, or have there been a whole mess of solar flares and coronal mass ejections and general Sunfoolery? I haven’t seen the Sun in a long time in these cloudy Finger Lakes (there was sunlight reported today but I was in class), so I may be spared for a little while the wrath of the lightgiver. I hope the sun isn’t going to explode because the federal government has been arranging a deal with aliens to sell the rights to the core in exchange for taking the gaseous layer off the gas giant planets, exposing the planet-sized diamonds within.

Mmmrrrrr, sleeeeeeeep. Seriously, should I add solar mishaps to my list of worries?

The worse thing that can happen is a fried sattelite, or a black-out, not likely thou.

NASA Solar Flare Office

NOAA Space Weather

Latest Solar Flare Alert

Latest SOHO Images

When you consider at least ten major solar flares in as many days, the space folks are jumping for joy.

Not according to some:

And the biggest of them happened today.

Just to keep it in perspective, Congress recently discussed who (among NASA, NOAA, and DoD) would get the mission (and funding) to do space weather. As I understand it, there was something of a shake-up.

I won’t say that these haven’t been large solar events–satellites have been going offline temporarily, and a few instruments, permanently–but it’s one heck of a coincidence if the space weather was “peachy keen” for the last three years and then “stormy” as soon as Congress debates cutting the funding.

Oh, c’mon, anybody who has read Larry Niven’s short story “Inconstant Moon” knows that a big solar flare could callously murder half the planet in an instant.

“Inconstant Moon” has aged better than many other SF stories, but the terminology in it is off. What he refers to as a “nova” is what we today would call a supernova, and what he calls a “flare” is what we today would call a nova. A nova would be quite adequate to sterilize half or more of the planet, but there’s no known way the Sun could nova.

As for the heck of a coincidence, Jurph, congress is always trying to cut the fundng for science projects of various sorts. And if you’re trying to imply some sort of conspiracy, science in general is far to open to be able to support conspiracies. It is rather weird that we’re getting so much solar activity right now, but that’s because we should be in solar minimum right now, not because the timing matches with politics. And weird observations just indicate that there are things we don’t understand about what we’re observing. Which we already knew.

Cool. When should we start looking for aurorae?

The flare lase weapon in the Ringworld series would do a hemisphere nicely. Now, why are we talking about halves of planets? Unless a flare is a tight pulse instead of an enormous cloud (no) it will hit the Earth on more than 50% of its surface, and the whole planet if half a day passes under the wash.

Of course, this doesn’t matter to our lives unless there is enormous numbers of particles actually hitting us; this is unlikely in solar flares. Mmmm, the Sun-catapult which hurls a piece of the corona the size of the Earth in a tidy packet…