During a solar maximum, a normal period in the eleven year cycle of the sun, large numbers of sunspots appear and the sun’s irradiance output grows by about 0.1 percent affecting regional weather patterns. While this solar maximum won’t occur until the end of the year, the sun is reminding earth dwellers that’s it’s out there and can get a little angry on occasion.
Tuesday of this week was one such occasion where the sun erupted a massive coronal mass ejection, or CME, sending billions of tons of particles into the solar system and towards our planet and its inhabitants.
That’s right, the sun is angry and in addition to giving thousands of people skin cancer each year, its trying to blow up the earth. Wait, I’m being told that it’s actually quite benign and my sensationalistic journalism skills will not be needed over the weekend. Pity, I was hoping for a reason to get out of a family reunion on Saturday. While there is always plenty of booze, I generally come back with a black eye or at the very least a severely strained voice and what would be a massive hangover if I happened to believe in them.
Hangovers are like Santa Clause, once you stop believing in them they go away or at least I try to make that the case.
Solar Eruption Expected To Be Mild
The coming geomagnetic storm is expected to be on the mild side, compared to those we may see as the solar maximum approaches. The energy from the CME will for the most part be absorbed by the Earth’s protective magnetosphere. However, it is expected to disrupt radio-based communications and navigation equipment, including radio stations, walkie-talkies, and satellite-based GPS. The extent of this disruption is anybody’s guess, and the boffins who study these things vary widely in their predictions.
If you’re lucky enough to live in the earth’s more northerly or southerly regions, keep your skies and your camera at the ready. Geomagnetic storms cause aurora borealis and australis. If you’re one of the few people who actually understand your camera, Space Academy has a guide on the best camera settings for snapping what for some might be quite the show.