On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.
Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.
Analysts believe that a direct hit … could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn’t even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps.
“In my view the July 2012 storm was in all respects at least as strong as the 1859 Carrington event,” Baker tells NASA. “The only difference is, it missed.”
During the Carrington event, the northern lights were seen as far south as Cuba and Hawaii according to historical accounts. The solar eruption “caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices,” NASA notes. The infamous solar storm of 1921 caused “the entire signal and switching system of the New York Central Railroad below 125th Street to be put out of operation, followed by a fire in the control tower at 57th Street and Park Avenue.” global manufacturing capacity for high voltage transformers is estimated to be only about 70 units per year. A repeat of the 1921 space weather event might damage at least several hundred such units worldwide, with replacement of so many transformers taking a year or more
Though it’s impossible for scientists to predict exactly when or where the next solar storm happen, what they do know is that with more sunspots come more stoms. And the fall of 2013 is when the Sun is set to reach the crest of its 11-year sunspot cycle.
via How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth.
Video of the Aurora Australis taken by the crew of Expedition 29 on board the International Space Station. This sequence of shots was taken September 17, 2011 from 17:22:27 to 17:45:12 GMT, on an ascending pass from south of Madagascar to just north of Australia over the Indian Ocean.
The PowerPC RAD750 chip at the heart of the Curiosity Mars rover’s central computer can withstand temperature extremes and massive doses of space radiation without the dreaded ‘blue screen of death.’
“First, you have to develop the radiation hardening techniques and actually implement them in the design,” said Scott Doyle, a BAE systems engineer for satellite electronics. “The next step is you have to qualify each of those individual components and that qualification is normally a year, a year-and-a-half, just to do that.””Then they get integrated on the board, and that board has to go through qualification activity to prove out the board. Then once that board gets integrated into the satellite at the system level, there’s several years worth of qualification testing that goes in at the satellite level. You add all that up, you’re talking five to eight years of qualification work.”
The resulting computers can cost anywhere from $200,000 to a half-million dollars. While all that might seem like overkill to an outsider, space-based computers simply have to work. “There’s no repairman in space,” Doyle said.
But given the unavoidable limitations in processing speed and memory, Curiosity’s programmers face a daunting task when it comes to writing software. “What’s hard about this, my phone has a processor that’s 10 times as fast as the processor that’s on Curiosity and it has 16 times as much storage as Curiosity has and my phone doesn’t have to land anything on Mars,” Cichy said. “All my phone has to do is follow (a friend’s) Twitter feed.”
via Slow, but rugged, Curiosity’s computer was built for Mars | Cutting Edge – CNET News.
The Scale of the Universe 2.
Click on the link an journey through the scale of the known universe.
Thanks to Dave in Vegas for passing this on from Craig in Ballamore.
The core concept in Penrose’s theory is the idea that in the very distant future the universe will in one sense become very similar to how it was at the Big Bang. Penrose says that “at these points the shape, or geometry, of the universe was and will be very smooth, in contrast to its current very jagged form. This continuity of shape, he maintains, will allow a transition from the end of the current aeon, when the universe will have expanded to become infinitely large, to the start of the next, when it once again becomes infinitesimally small and explodes outwards from the next big bang. Crucially, he says, the entropy at this transition stage will be extremely low, because black holes, which destroy all information that they suck in, evaporate as the universe expands and in so doing remove entropy from the universe.”
via “We Can See Through the Big Bang to the Universe That Existed in the Aeon Before Ours” (Today’s Most Popular).
He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”
He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
Similarly, Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, warned in a lecture earlier this year that aliens might prove to be beyond human understanding.
“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive,” he said. “Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”
via Don’t talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking – Times Online.
We took this visual journey in the New York City Planetarium. Now you can enjoy it at home. If you have high-speed internet, click on the HD option.
After 5 years of development, here is an awesome searchable database from 50 years of NASA images and videos. When complete, this database will contain twenty-one collections, featuring millions of images and thousands of hours of video footage.Click on thye link or the image to go there.
Happy Earth Day: Beautiful Pictures of Our Planet | Wired Science from Wired.com
Click on the link from Wired to see the satellite pictures of Earth. If you click on the actual pictures, you will find that they are high-resolution links from the original pages are truly high-resolution. Perfect for large computer screens or prints. And please feel free to share links to your own favorite satellite images!