Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Sky Lights and Carringtons

The Tavern is well located for observing the Aurora. We have the Aurora Australis here, rather than the Borealis which is seen up in the northern hemisphere.

The 'cause' is the same - solar activity which impacts the Earth's magnetic defences.

It can make for quite a light show. 

And we know when they are about to happen because Aurora nerds keep a sharp eye open and use an array of instruments to not just look at the sky but at the Sun. You can get an idea of that here.....

As you can see it does not need a lot of radiation hitting the atmosphere for Tasmanian to see it.

Go up higher though and the ISS - International Space Station does not have to wait around. It sees auroras several times a day.

It can look pretty but there is a significant sting in its tail.

The root cause is the ejection of plasma from the Sun. Modest amounts can light up the sky, but what of far greater amounts?

Then we are in deep doo doos.

As we were told by  Josh Davis just yesterday.

Here's How The White House Would Deal With A Huge Solar Storm That Could Send Us Back To The Dark Age
The worst solar storm to hit the Earth in recorded history happened in 1859. Known as the 
Carrington Event 
it generated auroras as far south as Cuba and caused havoc with the primitive electrical system of the time, generating fires in telegraph stations. 
It’s estimated that such a large solar storm will occur roughly every 150 years or so. If one of a similar magnitude were to hit the Earth now, with a society much more dependent on electronics and technology, it would undoubtedly have catastrophic consequences.
Due to this increasing threat, the White House’s National Science and Technology Council has released a National Space Weather Action Plan, in which it details a strategic plan to prepare for an event such as a major solar storm.
Somehow, for some reason, I do not have a lot of confidence in 'White House' plans. No doubt they will say that the Sun's plasma ejections are caused by global warming and its all your fault and you should pay the UN billions in taxes.
The document warns that with electrical systems becoming increasingly interconnected, if one were to be knocked out, it could cause a cascade of system failures. It recommends a federally-coordinated approach to a number of procedures, from reducing the vulnerability of those infrastructures deemed most at risk, to increasing our forecasting and communications abilities.    
The Sun is constantly ejecting charged subatomic particles in the form of solar winds, some of which hit our atmosphere. It is this that causes the northern lights, or auroras, though most of the particles that reach us are deflected by Earth’s magnetic field. 
Occasionally, particularly large flares will burst from the Sun and the particles will make it through our magnetic field. A recent study has estimated that there is a 
12 percent chance that one of these “megaflares” will erupt within the decade, sending a massive solar storm our way.  
We’ve already had a taster of what might happen if we were struck by a storm, albeit on a much smaller scale. 
Back in 1989 Canada got hit by solar storm that created a power surge on the electrical grid. Within 90 seconds this caused the shut-down of Hydro-Qu├ębec’s electrical system, leaving millions without power for nine hours. If this were to happen on a much grander scale, the damage would be huge.

One estimate suggests that if a storm the size of the Carrington Event were to hit today, the cost of the clean-up in the U.S. alone would be somewhere between $1-2 trillion (£657 billion to £1.3 trillion) during the first year, with a recovery that could take up to a decade. 
Every facet of our lives would be impacted, from transportation, communication, banking and government, as we live in an increasingly electronic world.
In Tasmania the clean-up cost would probably run into hundreds of dollars.
In fact the danger is so great that the European Space Agency is also working on its own warning system using scientists spread across 14 countries across Europe. At the moment there isn’t actually much we can do if a storm were to hit, except warn the necessary parties of the incoming threat, who could then make preparations, such as shutting down relevant systems to limit the potential damage. 
Hmmmm. No, I guess there is not a lot we could do. The Stone Age may be a reach into scary imagination but a more realistic one would be the middle ages. 

Stock up on goodies.

Drink deep.

It will not be just pretty skies for a while but roving bands of brigands again. 



  1. I have never even seen the Aurora Borealis here in America, so I started to say how lucky you are to see the Aurora Australis, and then I read further about the potential for solar storms, hmm.

    I'm reminded that the Native Americans here in the US interpreted the "northern lights" in various spiritual ways, mostly positive, but also warned to be respectful of the potential power of the Northern Lights.

    Of course, now we know the scientific explanation behind them, but I wonder despite their rudimentary interpretation, if they weren't still "right" in terms of the potential and our powerlessness.

    Well, for now, I guess there is nothing I personally can do but choose to focus on the beauty of them - thank you for these photos, and especially the ISS video :)

    1. Thank you for that, Chrystal. If you follow the 'nerd' link you will see not just southern hemisphere info but links to northern hemisphere info too, so that you can look out for sightings where you are. If you are a Facebook sort of person there is also a page for Aurora Australis photos and they are plentiful. Where I am we have dozens of budding snappers up at all hours photoing the night skies.

  2. Not sure I ever saw one. Most interesting.

    1. Make the effort, sir. You will not be disappointed.

    2. Colours are superb. I was in northern Finland to look but they never appeared.

  3. I think the 'planning' should have been in place before society became entirely reliant on digital communications...

    Now that the Genie is out of the bottle it will take a great deal of effort to return the Genie to the bottle and refit the cork!

    1. Yes, some planning is needed, but what could even a nation do. The damage would be to our electrical generation and transmission systems. Those large transformer thingos are not 'off the shelf'. They are $500,000 apiece and we would have hundreds of thousands to replace. And guess what.... we need electricity to make the things !!


Ne meias in stragulo aut pueros circummittam.

Our Bouncer is a gentleman of muscle and guile. His patience has limits. He will check you at the door.

The Tavern gets rowdy visitors from time to time. Some are brain dead and some soul dead. They attack customers and the bar staff and piss on the carpets. Those people will not be allowed in anymore. So... Be Nice..