NASA Press Conference Report

Well, the NASA Press Conference was held on schedule...and....

First, we'll commend the NASA and NOAA scientists who took part in today's press conference for explaining their missions and goals when it comes to studying the sun, Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) and hopefully forecasting space weather with better accuracy in the future.

Second, we'll say that as press conferences go, this was a complete information vacuum.

If you were a scientist interested in the heliosphere and the tremendous difficulties involved in separating data streams and making plasma stand out from the background of space, you might have been really impressed with what has been achieved in that regard.

But if you were expecting some usable news (as in “new”) input about what CMEs are, and what they can do to Earth when they get here, you'd have had perhaps two sentences worth of information – which you'd have known already anyway.

Worse yet, when it came to the (stage-managed and pre-arranged) news media call-in session, you'd have been completely disappointed by the innocuous and wishy-washy questions that were asked by the San Freancisco Chronicle, the Christian Science Monitor, and someone from space.com.

Not one of them asked “what can we expect in the way of damage to our power grids and technology as the sun peaks in this current solar cycle?”

There's no doubt that some of these NASA scientists have done a sterling job when it comes to expanding our knowledge of what's out there. Unfortunately, it's also very clear that they know their place – and that means they don't think they're qualified to tell us what to expect, in detail, about the impact of future X-class flares.

But, surprisingly, at the very time they were discussing the Stereo mission and what they're learning about the sun, spaceweather.com was alerting us to the fact that a new sun spot (image at left)  has been sighted, and it has the potential to launch a serious storm our way.

The only mention of what such storms can do to us was a brief statement that space weather (flares) can affect satellites, GPS systems, “and technology.” And they also give us the aurora borealis or Northern Lights, which supposedly is a good thing.

However, we already knew all that. Because NASA itself told us so in the past.

Another thing that was glossed over was the way in which the earth's magnetic shield is affected.

We were told that it deflects solar storms.

We were not told that it is full of holes and is no longer as strong as it should be.

(Dec. 16, 2008: NASA's five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a breach in Earth's magnetic field ten times larger than anything previously thought to exist. Solar wind can flow in through the opening to "load up" the magnetosphere for powerful geomagnetic storms...).

What we did learn was that when a storm comes our way, we'll now get between eight and 14 hours warning. That at least is a good thing. We also learned that some storms speed up, others slow down and some are deflected. And that a solar storm can envelope the earth in a 50 million mile high wall of plasma. (That's awesome).

Solar Cycle 24 (the current one) was mentioned, briefly, with a hint once again that it will build to a high point in 2013. But when this cycle started, there were conflicting ideas as to when the maximum would be – some saying it could happen in 2010 or 2011.

Interestingly, there has been a recent major increase in activity on the sun, which is boiling with sun spots right now, and likely to hurl a few X-class flares our way – long before 2013.

Sadly, the press conference did not live up to the claim that it would “discuss new details about the structure of solar storms and the impact they have on Earth.”

Guess we'll just have to wait for the impact, and figure it out for ourselves after the event. Or be prepared for the grid to go down, the vehicle to quit, GPS systems to fail, and satellites too. (Dammit...no TV!).

Best wishes,

The Survival Center News Team

 

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0 #1 Walter 2011-08-21 09:45
I understand that Apple with their Ipod or Ipad has a solar warning program which you can download to give you warnings of solar flares two days in advance. I think from SOHO.I discovered SpaceWeather.co m is a joke, they only give you a 30 minute warning. This info took several days of my time in researching to get since all the web sites I contacted dealing with solar flares for the most part didn't respone to my emails or calls.The entire industry is very lacking in info relating to this subject.I've been off the grid for 25 years and have solar panels,windmil etc. the reason it's important to be aware of major flares so I can turn my system off. The Ram said at Assay to get programs that can warn you of solar storms before you leave your house to protect you and your family. RSE web site only offered SpaceWeather.co m for warnings,a little surprized they offered only this inadequate site,RSE must be too busy to do research? Hope this info helps you and your readers. Cheers Walter

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