“Super Tuesday? You bet!” said Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). ”It’s hitting us right in the nose. By some measures this is the strongest one since December of 2006.”
The solar flare, an X5-4-class sun storm, is expected to cause no major problems, but due to the storm’s strength, people are already taking precautions with their communications systems and air travel routes. The NOAA’s space weather scale has been set at an R3, which means special communication precautions have been taken, but Kunches expects the storm may peak at a G3/S4 level. That means power surges may affect the power grid and that the astronauts on the ISS will have to take shelter from the radiation bombardment.
For four and a half months, Canadian high school students Matthew Ho and Asad Muhammed spent every Saturday working on a project. No, it wasn’t restoring an old car, it was building a homemade satellite/space vehicle. Somehow, they not only managed to build their spacecraft, they managed to send a Lego minifigure into space. It’s a shame it wasn’t one of the official Lego astronauts, but the important thing is Canada has gotten someone into orbit! It’s a victory for the Canadian space program!
The pair were inspired by other videos of people sending balloons into space, possibly these guys. The two spent only $400 to build their spacecraft, though the planning was meticulous. They wanted their Lego man to launch and return to them in Canada to avoid having to cross the border to retrieve him. The ascent took an hour and five minutes; after the balloon popped, the descent took only 30 minutes. The homemade spacecraft consisted of a lightweight Styrofoam box carrying three point-and-shoot cameras, a wide-angle video camera, and a cellphone with GPS to track the landing. The balloon was bought online and filled with helium from a party store; two mitten warmers were used to ensure the electronics didn’t get too cold on the trip into space.
“Being hit by a CME does not automatically mean aurora,” said NASA solar physicist C. Alex Young, explaining why we all didn’t get another aurora borealis sighting. ”A CME has to be what we call ‘geo-effective.’ It must have enough mass, speed and magnetic field (including the orientation of the field) in order to disturb the magnetosphere sufficiently (to generate aurorae).”
The region responsible for this storm was AR 1402 (the AR stands for active region, meaning a place with a lot of bubbling sun activity). Expect more such eruptions, not just from this area, but from the sun in general. The year 2013 is slated to be a solar maximum year, meaning the sun is going to be very active and earth is going to be getting a nice tan thanks to all the solar energy.