On Wednesday, January 22, Slooh, the online community observatory, will broadcast live coverage of the newest Sun storms that have rotated into the hemisphere facing Earth. Accompanied by realtime narration from Slooh astronomer Bob Berman and Prescott Observatory director Matt Francis, the 30minute free presentation viewing the Sun in various parts of the spectrum will explore not only the recent sudden increase in storm activity but put this in the perspective of the current feeble “Solar Max,” the recent deep solar minimum, and the increasing view among researchers that the Sun is entering a prolonged period of quiescence and its likely consequences for our planet.
“The huge X-class flare that struck Earth a glancing blow two weeks ago made headlines,” says Berman. “But it’s been years since we’ve been bathed in the full consequences of what a major Coronal Mass Ejection can do to us. This is why sharing solar flares, prominences, and major sunspot groupings as soon as they rotate into the hemisphere facing Earth and explaining their meaning to the public provides a vital science service that goes far beyond the sheer drama and visual beauty of these enormous acts of solar violence.”
The current sunspot maximum of Sun cycle number 24 has been weaker than any of the past century, so far. But the greatest sun violence has often occurred outside the year of that cycle’s maximum, such as the “Halloween Storm” of 2003 that caused power blackouts in Scandinavia and fried the electronics in a $650 million satellite.
“What solar experts fear most,” says Berman, “is a recurrence of the huge Coronal Mass Ejection events of 1921 and 1859. A government sponsored panel in 2008 estimated that such a solar event today would likely destroy the US electrical grid, inflict a staggering $1 to $2 trillion dollars worth of damage, and require over a year to repair.”