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12 November 2018

Powerful solar storm likely detonated mines during Vietnam War

A strong solar storm in 1972 caused widespread disturbances to satellites and spacecraft, and may have led to the detonation of mines during the Vietnam War, according to new research showing the event may have been a more devastating solar storm than previously thought. In a new study, researchers pieced together data and historical records related to the solar activity of 1972 to better understand the nature of the solar storm. In the process, they uncovered an incident where sea mines off the coast of Vietnam were detonated by the solar event.

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18 October 2018

Sounds of a Solar Storm

High school students listening to audio tracks of NOAA satellite data have identified the sounds of solar storms buffeting Earth’s magnetic field. The results of a UK-led citizen science project suggest that the approach of converting physical data into sound signals could help NOAA and other scientists make sense of massive amounts of data from satellites and other instruments.

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17 August 2018

New technology could improve radiation risk warnings for future deep-space astronauts

New technology that detects radiation from the Sun in real time and immediately predicts subsequent health risks could protect astronauts on future deep-space missions, according to a new study. Astronauts face dangers during solar energetic particle, or SEP, events, which occur when an eruption in the Sun’s atmosphere hurls high-energy protons out into space. These protons can penetrate the walls of a spacecraft and enter the human body. This radiation can cause immediate effects such as nausea, performance degradation and other acute radiation syndromes, while long-term effects can include cancer, degenerative tissue damage, heart disease and damage to the central nervous system.

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4 April 2017

Impending weak solar activity could expose aircrews to higher radiation levels

Aircrews and frequent fliers may soon experience an uptick in radiation exposure due to the upcoming low point in the solar cycle, when weak solar activity provides less protection against cosmic rays entering the atmosphere.

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9 April 2015

New study finds small solar eruptions can have profound effects on unprotected planets

On Dec. 19, 2006, the sun ejected a small, slow-moving puff of solar material. Four days later, this sluggish Coronal Mass Ejection was nevertheless powerful enough to rip away dramatic amounts of oxygen out of Venus’ atmosphere and send it out into space, where it was lost forever. Learning just why a small CME had such a strong impact may have profound consequences for understanding what makes a planet hospitable for life.

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5 January 2015

Measuring the temperature of solar winds

The sun spews forth super-heated, charged particles, collectively called plasma, that fly out into the vacuum of space at speeds of 200 to 400 miles per second (300 to 700 kilometers per second). These waves of plasma make up the solar winds that spread across our solar system.

Traveling across freezing space should suck all the heat from the plasma by the time it nears Earth, but the solar waves detected near our planet are still hot. Scientists think something is happening within the plasma to generate heat.

Astrophysicist Anthony Case of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics calculated the temperatures of the solar winds traveling at different supersonic speeds, or speeds greater than the speed of sound.

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21 November 2012

Huge signal-distorting space bubbles spawn along equator as night falls

In our Sun’s most active years, enormous snake-like bubbles of plasma emerge overhead on Earth at nightfall. You can’t see them, but these bubbles can bend and disperse radio waves, interfering with communications networks. Now, a satellite soaring low in Earth’s orbit has observed the continuous birth of these evening-time bubbles for the first time, and scientists have started to chart their evolution.

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16 August 2011

A quieter sun won’t make up for global warming

The Sun seems to be taking a bit of a rest. In recent years, scientists have detected fewer sunspots on the star’s surface, and many expect that number to drop further in coming decades — possibly echoing the Maunder Minimum, a period of low solar activity that happened centuries ago. But a decrease in the number of sunspots would not have much of a cooling effect on Earth over the next century, according to new research accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters.

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