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Blog

Weather forecasting and analysis, space and historic events, climate information

Filtering by Category: Space Events

8:00 AM | *This kind of solar storm could be devastating in today’s world…the "Carrington Event" of 1859*

Paul Dorian

The sun has been relatively quiet in recent years and the current solar cycle (#24) is actually on pace to be the weakest in over one hundred years. Even weak solar cycles, however, can produce significant solar storms. In fact, it was this same time of year back in 1859 when a super solar storm - now known as the “Carrington Event” - took place during another weak solar cycle (#10).  The event has been named for the British astronomer, Richard Carrington, as he observed from his own private observatory the largest solar flare which caused a major coronal mass ejection (CME) to travel directly toward Earth.  Fortunately, solar storms of this magnitude are quite rare as it would very likely have a much more damaging impact on today’s world than it did in the 19th century.  

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8:00 AM | *Almost a year has passed since the “Great American Solar Eclipse” and there are some important preliminary findings…another opportunity comes in 2024*

Paul Dorian

It was just about one year ago when America went crazy for the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse on US soil since 1918 and it provided a great opportunity for scientists.  Next week marks the one-year anniversary of what was referred to as “The Great American Solar Eclipse” as on August 21st, 2017, the moon passed between the sun and earth and the result was a 67-mile wide shadow that crossed the country from Oregon-to-South Carolina.  Total solar eclipses occur somewhere on Earth every year or so, but generally cast their shadows over oceans or remote land masses.  If you missed last year’s total solar eclipse or it turned out to be cloudy in your area then there will be another opportunity in the not-too-distant future during April 2024.

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9:50 AM | *It was during the height of the Cold War and a solar storm nearly sparked a nuclear war*

Paul Dorian

It was during the height of the Cold War and a powerful solar storm could have led to a disastrous military conflict between the US and Soviet Union if not for the early efforts of the US Air Force to monitor solar activity. On May 23rd, 1967, a solar storm took place that was so powerful, it jammed radar and radio communications in polar regions and the US Air Force actually began to prepare aircraft for war thinking the nation’s surveillance radars were being jammed by the Soviet Union. Fortunately, space weather forecasters in the military suspected there might be another cause and they relayed information about the possibility that a solar storm could have been the reason for the disrupted radar and radio communications.  As it turned out, this information was enough to keep the planes on the ground and the US avoided a potential nuclear weapon exchange with the Soviet Union.

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8:00 AM | *This year’s Perseid meteor shower likely to be the best of the year…peaks during the weekend of August 11-12/12-13*

Paul Dorian

The annual Perseid meteor shower will peak this year on the weekend nights of August 11-12 (Saturday/Sunday) and August 12-13 (Sunday/Monday) and it’ll likely turn out to be the best meteor shower of the entire year. The Perseid meteor shower comes every August as the Earth passes through a cloud of dust that comes from Comet Swift-Tuttle as it approaches the sun. This year the moon will be very favorable for viewing as it’ll be very near new moon and it’ll set before the Perseid show gets underway after midnight.  

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9:10 AM | *NOAA’s newest GOES weather satellite has a problem*

Paul Dorian

NOAA’s newest weather satellite – part of the $11 billion GOES constellation series to operate for the next 20 years – is broken and officials are not sure exactly what is wrong.  There are four satellites in the series (GOES-R, GOES-S, GOES-T and GOES-U) with six primary instruments on each that will help to improve weather forecasting around the world by providing advanced imaging with faster coverage and increased spatial resolution, real-time mapping of lightning activity, and improved monitoring of solar activity. NASA successfully launched the GOES-R satellite in November 2016 and then GOES-S was launched on March 1st of this year.

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11:40 AM | *The quietest sun since 2009*

Paul Dorian

The sun is blank today for the 15th straight day which is the longest stretch without sunspots since November 2009 when the sun was emerging from the deepest solar minimum in a century. This year the sun has been blank 52% of the time which is the most in a given year since the 71% that took place in 2009. The last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun - the most spotless days in a given year since 1913 - and the longest consecutive streak in 2008 reached 52 days according to spaceweather.com. All indications are that the upcoming solar minimum may even be even quieter than the last one. One of the natural consequences of low solar activity is the weakening of the solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows for the intensification of cosmic rays and easier access to Earth.  In addition, there tends to be a drop in total solar irradiance with the approach of a solar minimum.

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11:50 AM | *Solar cycle 24 declining even more quickly than forecast*

Paul Dorian

Solar cycle 24 is rapidly approaching the next solar minimum and while the sun currently has three sunspots region visible to Earth, much of the year has seen a spotless sun.  In fact, the sun has been blank on 73 days in 2018 which amounts to 57% of the year.  The last time the sun was this blank in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the time was spotless. That last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun - the most spotless days in a given year since 1913. The current solar cycle is the 24th solar cycle since 1755 when extensive record-keeping of sunspot activity began and it on pace to be the weakest sunspot cycle since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. As a result of the last unusually long and deep solar minimum and very weak bounce back during solar cycle 24’s maximum phase, much attention will be focused on the rapidly approaching solar minimum and subsequent solar cycle #25 to see if the sun may be entering an extended period of quiet.

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2:25 PM | *Lyrid meteor shower peaks late tomorrow night/early Sunday*

Paul Dorian

Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, the source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. This particular meteor shower has been seen each April for more than 2600 years making it one of the oldest known meteor showers. If forecasters are correct, April’s top meteor shower will peak late tomorrow night with 10 to 20 meteors visible per hour. The best time to look for the meteors is between 11 pm on Saturday night and sunrise on Sunday. In the Northern Hemisphere, Lyra will rise in the northeastern sky in the early evening and move nearly directly overhead during the night. Skies should be clear-to-partly cloudy in the Mid-Atlantic region, but it’ll be pretty cold with temperatures likely in the 30’s.

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11:35 AM | *Historic solar minimum fast approaching…sun is blank already for 51st day in 2018*

Paul Dorian

The sun is blank today for the 10th straight day and it has been without sunspots this year more than half the time as the current solar cycle (#24) heads towards the next solar minimum. The last time the sun was this blank in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the time was spotless. That last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun - the most spotless days in a given year since 1913. All indications are that the upcoming solar minimum may be even quieter than the last one which was the deepest in nearly a century.  One of the natural consequences of low solar activity is the weakening of the solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows for the intensification of cosmic rays and easier access to Earth.

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10:15 AM | *Cosmic rays continue to intensify as historic solar minimum approaches*

Paul Dorian

The sun is blank today for the 10th straight day and it has been without sunspots this year more than half the time as the current solar cycle heads towards the next solar minimum. Solar cycle 24 is currently on pace to be the weakest sunspot cycle with the fewest sunspots since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906. Solar cycle 24 continues a recent trend of weakening solar cycles which began with solar cycle 21 that peaked around 1980. The last time the sun was this blank in a given year on a percentage basis was 2009 during the last solar minimum when 71% of the time was spotless. That last solar minimum actually reached a nadir in 2008 when an astounding 73% of the year featured a spotless sun - the most spotless days in a given year since 1913.

All indications are that the upcoming solar minimum which is expected to begin in 2019 may be even quieter than the last one which was the deepest in nearly a century. One of the natural impacts of decreasing solar activity is the weakening of the ambient solar wind and its magnetic field which, in turn, allows more and more cosmic rays to penetrate the solar system.  The intensification of cosmic rays can have important consequences on such things as Earth’s cloud cover and climate, the safety of our astronauts exploring in space, and lightning.  

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