Friday, September 12, 2014

Weathering the (Solar) Storm

Those of you working HF are obviously looking for something to do. Band conditions are lousy for the moment as the sun has blasted some charged particles our way, rendering HF propagation into so much hash & static. Oh well...
Goes to show... unless you're a Ham Operator, or read stuff on the internet, you'd more likely never know that the planet is awash in a direct stream of solar flux. But by breathless accounts from the popular press, we should all be hanging on for dear life as the sun has sent a tremendous cloud of plasma our way. Funny... can't tell it from looking outside that's for sure.
So while waiting for the MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) to get back to normal here's a look back at some of the most noteworthy solar storms Earth has had to deal with since... when someone started following such things... (Article courtesy of
1859: The Carrington Event
The Carrington Event of 1859 was the first documented event of a solar flare impacting Earth. The event occurred at 11:18 a.m. EDT on Sept. 1 and is named after Richard Carrington, the solar astronomer who witnessed the event through his private observatory telescope and sketched the sun's sunspots at the time. The flare was the largest documented solar storm in the last 500 years, NASA scientists have said.
According to NOAA, the Carrington solar storm event sparked major aurora displays that were visible as far south as the Caribbean. It also caused severe interruptions in global telegraph communications, even shocking some telegraph operators and sparking fires when discharges from the lines ignited telegraph paper, according to a NASA description.

1972: Solar Flare vs. AT&T
The major solar flare that erupted on Aug. 4, 1972 knocked out long-distance phone communication across some states, including Illinois, according to a NASA account.
"That event, in fact, caused AT&T to redesign its power system for transatlantic cables," NASA wrote in the account.

1989: Major Power Failures From Solar Flare
In March 1989, a powerful solar flare set off a major March 13 power blackout in Canada that left six million people without electricity for nine hours.
According to NASA, the flare disrupted electric power transmission from the Hydro Qu├ębec generating station and even melted some power transformers in New Jersey. This solar flare was nowhere near the same scale as the Carrington event, NASA scientists said.

2000: The Bastille Day Event
The Bastille Day event takes its name from the French national holiday since it occurred the same day on July 14, 2000. This was a major solar eruption that registered an X5 on the scale of solar flares.
The Bastille Day event caused some satellites to short-circuit and led to some radio blackouts. It remains one of the most highly observed solar storm events and was the most powerful flare since 1989.

2003: The Ultra-Powerful Halloween Sun Storm
On Oct. 28, 2003, the sun unleashed a whopper of a solar flare. The intense sun storm was so strong it overwhelmed the spacecraft sensor measuring it. The sensor topped out at X28, already a massive flare), but later analysis found that the flare reached a peak strength of about X45, NASA has said.
The solar storm was part of a string of at least nine major flares over a two-week period.

2006: X-Ray Sun Flare for Xmas
When a major X-class solar flare erupted on the sun on Dec. 5, 2006, it registered a powerful X9 on the space weather scale.
This storm from the sun "disrupted satellite-to-ground communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals for about 10 minutes," according to a NASA description.
The sun storm was so powerful it actually damaged the solar X-ray imager instrument on the GOES 13 satellite that snapped its picture, NOAA officials said.

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