Space Weather Update

I’ve heard from a couple people now who have had Mercury retrograde-like events (computer crashing, for instance) and wondered if Mars Rx was playing mimic. I’m not sure about that, but we are experiencing some strong solar flares — and Mars is in the line of fire:

Today's extreme ultraviolet solar flare. Image captured by NASA.

“Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab say the leading edge of the CME [coronal mass ejection — a plume of plasma jetting out from the Sun] will reach Earth on Jan. 24 at 14:18UT (+/- 7 hours). Their animated forecast track shows that Mars is in the line of fire, too; the CME will hit the Red Planet during the late hours of Jan. 25.

“This is a relatively substantial and fast-moving (2200 km/s) CME. Spacecraft in geosynchronous, polar and other orbits passing through Earth’s ring current and auroral regions could be affected by the cloud’s arrival. In addition, strong geomagnetic storms are possible, so high-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.”

And yes, there was a big event this morning:

“This morning, Jan. 23rd around 0359 UT, big sunspot 1402 erupted, producing a long-duration M9-class solar flare. The explosion’s M9-ranking puts it on the threshold of being an X-flare, the most powerful kind. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the flare’s extreme ultraviolet flash.”

Visit for more info and a brief video showing the flare.

Alert sent in by Carol Van Strum.

17 thoughts on “Space Weather Update”

  1. awordedgewise – that’s awesome, and totally the perfect “in” remedy. 😀
    I mean that in terms of subversive, useful and Eris (golden apple, not planet), not hipster.

  2. One last thing: I completely spaced out about the effect a CME can have on the electrical grid, and that is not pretty. Solar activity is what produces the aurora (both borealis and australis), and aurora can induce extremely high voltages in the grid. I’m talking millions of volts here, well over any design maximum, so the grid can start popping off all kinds of circuit breakers to stop the over-voltage.

    Well. That only takes milliseconds to happen, and in that time a lot of electrical items and technology can fry with the wrong voltage being applied. Solar activity has caused blackouts before, it will again, and it’s very expensive and time consuming to fix what blows up, and yes, transformers do blow up, wires melt, et cetera.

    On a personal note, get a UPS for your computer, preferably one with a surge protector. Those of us who live in lightning prone, tornado prone, well, everywhere that is, should have one. They do work.

  3. Semi-deranged, sleep deprived geek missive for the day. 😉

    Shortwave radio was not too disturbed today, at least after about 12 noon MST. Currently I’m hearing Cairo, Bucharest and others, although it’s not as “good” as it can be this time of night. Latin America is coming in quite well, so shorter ranges are definitely good.

    We are approaching the Solar Max, the high point in the eleven year solar cycle, and this max is running late too: it should have been last year around June. It is not predicted to be the most extreme solar max however: it’s supposed to be average in fact. The cycle normally has a very steep increase in activity, peaks for a few months, and then spends the next 10 years tapering off slowly to the solar minimum. The last solar minimum by the way was very low and very prolonged. Lots of people were hyping a new Maunder minimum (i.e. a new “Little Ice Age”), but that didn’t happen. A lot of climate deniers were using that to postulate active denial by the developed nations in carbon reduction steps, after all, increased warming would counter the increasing cold. Boobs.

    We (the civilized world that is) pay more attention to CME’s now because of the disruptive effect on a lot of newer technologies, and good old radio. Satellite based communications and TV are very susceptible because the high voltage levels in the CME can fry the electronics in the satellites if it’s too much. They are built to take certain levels, but we can’t always predict the strength of a CME and thus the paranoia about them. GPS satellites can also be messed up, and they can take the cell networks with them, since the cell networks use the GPS system to run the cell towers correctly: if they don’t have accurate timing, they don’t work well. The GPS system is actually an orbiting set of atomic clocks that broadcast the time within microseconds, and the cell networks use that for a lot of purposes.

    Radio, especially shortwave, can be wiped out by a CME. The military still uses a lot of shortwave, especially the Air Force, and they don’t like it if they can’t keep in touch with deployed units. The nuclear forces use different, lower frequencies to keep in touch with “home,” so they are less prone to a loss of communications. It’s when the submarines don’t hear anything at all that we should be afraid, very afraid.

    {Geek trivia: the subs are listening (24/7) to a “bell-ringer” signal, one that basically says “OK, OK, OK…” and so on around the clock. Very, very rarely it will say “Surface for messages,” so up they pop to about 60′ of the surface, raise a satellite antenna, and get their messages. At that point, we probably don’t want to know what’s going to happen next…} 🙁

    As to disrupting the net, a CME is not all that likely to take it out. Most of the net goes on fiber optic cables, which are not prone to disruption like radio.

    Doesn’t mean that someone wouldn’t try to blame a CME or other solar activity for election results being scrambled, it’s just not all that plausible. A burst of Rovian activity might do it, but then we know who to blame then, don’t we?

  4. Maeve, the phone thing is so TRUE that where I am we often refer to it all as the “LA Moment” (when everyone’s on cell phone)

    Quick story you might enjoy: ….you may have noticed my off-kilter-humor thing here at PW, in real-life I’m like that too lol…..I like to play off my humor/message into my actions…..and so the other day I was walking with two friends who were – as we were walking along – independently texting the SAME 4th person (two independent txt conversations!). As soon as I realized this, I TOO began to text that person, giving updates on what the other two were saying. It confused the recipient of all these text messages enough that EVERYONE popped their everlovin’ heads up from the phone-bury, had a laugh, and put the phones away.


  5. I’m glad I got my unemployment application in today before Mars goes retro tonight. Hopefully it will go like butter. I guess we’ll see. Footwork is footwork. Having those lovely discussions with trusted friends about where to go next. Made the list you recommended, Len, and look forward to Friday’s revelations. Anyhoo, just focusing on the footwork and finishing up old projects. Wrapping up a 4 year old painting project even as we speak….maybe it’s only 3 years old. But I’m glad it’s getting finished!!

  6. The Muffin would be pleased he’s remembered; thanks for the mention, Amanda. And GaryB, if we had a nice solar flare that put our fragile grid in peril then maybe the gazillions that we send to places like Afghanistan might need to stay home to make decades-overdue restoration — and that would be one heckuva wake-up call. Then the Afghan’s could get on with their lives and we could save some of ours.

    Thing is, we Just Don’t Know what things mean — what we think is a defeat is sometimes just the thing that inspires victory; what we think is a door closed, is often a whole bank of windows slamming open. We don’t know.

    And in THIS particular year, I’m pretty sure we can depend on plenty of surprising OMG-what-does-this-mean moments, which we need to be able to quickly take in stride without thinking the worst. I’m pretty sure the Universe is depending on us to keep a cool head and open heart.

  7. btw judith —

    i used to LOVE the cosmic muffin! the local classic rock station used to carry him in the mornings — i’d hear him on the school bus.

    i’ve always loved his tagline:

    “and remember: it’s a wise person who rules the stars, and a fool who’s ruled by them. over and out.”

    guess i momentarily lost sight of that chestnut earlier!

  8. Oddly tangent to electronics going bonkers and Mercury Retrograde-like communication snafus –

    I was taking a walk earlier today around my work campus. I’d brought my phone with me, but it was in my pocket. I’ve been trying very hard lately to be less OCD about my phone. I keep checking it compulsively, refreshing my email, etc. My phone doesn’t always alert me when it gets a new message, and so I think I must always refresh to check. Today, I’m waiting from an email or message from my mom, telling me she’s arrived safely overseas. She’s not a cell phone kind of person, so it’s not horribly surprising that we’ve not heard from her, but since she left at 4am Sunday (Pacific time), arrived in Norway this morning at 915a (Norway time), and it’s now like 11pm Norske time and still haven’t heard from her, I’m slightly concerned.

    Whew. That wasn’t even what I was planning on saying.

    What I _was_ going to say is that I was outside, walking around, admiring the outdoorsy stuff (our campus is very nicely landscaped, all happy desert and dusky trees and cacti and little grass), and noticed almost every other human outside was on their phone. Most weren’t talking, they were just reading something on their phones. Not watching where they were going (I almost got run into a few times), not being aware of their surroundings, not admiring the beauty of the day. Just attached to their phones like… well, I don’t know, but I know you all know what I mean.

    I thought, how sad it is that we’ve become so attached to these little devices that we can never turn them off, much less leave them at our desks. I thought, if someone from the future (or the past) saw us, never looking up, always looking at these little card-sized devices, what would they think? We’d never notice, we’d be too busy playing Angry Birds, or reading emails, or fiddling about with the colors on our backgrounds.

    It was a reminder to me _to_ disconnect. To enjoy nature, especially now while it’s not Hot.

    I know I’ve got some deprogramming to do… I’ve been attached to my phone for the last year because I’ve had a lot of very urgent, mostly not pleasant things that I couldn’t miss. Huh. Maybe the husband and I will go back to the San Juan Islands for our anniversary this year. We went there for our honeymoon and the only time we got a cell phone signal was at the very top of the tallest mountain, and then it was only two bars. We loved it.

  9. welllllll… unless someone can research whether the CME cycles are likely to flare up then, i’m not sure what good speculating now will do. you know?

  10. Amanda,

    Just a thought: with all of the intense CME action of late and the discussion of the increased intensity over the upcoming period of time I was pondering the Mercury station retrograde on the upcoming election day. Perhaps it is different than a past election that was befuddled by a Mercury retro station (and resulted in a stolen election) and this time a massive CME destabilizes the grid as well as the election results. This would be a massive problem regarding the accuracy of the results, or lack of voters due to systems crashing, which would definitely be delayed and could bring the people into the streets to protest the potentially fraudulent results. Can’t fool me twice! OR: Hackers crash the system and nobody knows whose side they are on regardless of the outcome. Any thoughts are welcome.

  11. Well, it was just one man’s opinion, Amanda — I haven’t heard any echo’s on that over the years. It would be an interesting hypothesis to take on as a research project … but Not At This Time (LOL!)

    Perhaps the whole concept of what constitutes “success” is worth looking at. Whatever we discover about self, for instance, during such a transit will be useful no matter what; perhaps even what we learn about things “not working out.” All grist for the mill. I’d suggest that the whole thing be taken as Lightly as possible. Didn’t mean to throw monkey wrenches.

  12. Amanda,
    Life does not stop during any retrograde. Take ownership of Mars and tell that bad boy what to do – he will obey you. Think of yourself as Elizabeth I – you rule your realm.

  13. A metaphysical friend commented this morning that Mars Rx for her was what others experienced with Mercury Rx. Interesting.

    And, just yesterday I read Greg Braden’s essay “Choice Point 2012” in “The Mystery of 2012 – Predictions, Prophecies and Possiblities” (Sounds True). One of his points is about the increased frequency of solar storms and their increased strength, and the effect on all of our techie stuff.

    Synchronicity? Cue the theme from “Twilight Zone.” (All above duly noted in my list per Len’s instructions.)

    I’m with Amanda: lots of things have been simmering on the back burner, and the astrology has been encouraging at least conversation about taking action. Now what? Then again, if all the cell phones, electronics, etc take a powder, we may all be forced to do lots of inner work.


  14. hmm… well, that makes me wonder what counts as “starting” and what counts as a “project.”

    as in: what about the starting the newest installment of something ongoing? or what about taking a concrete step on something that one has been mulling or researching?

    and would this sort of thing count for, say, starting work with a new therapist? after all, eric seems to have indicated that doing that kind of inner work during this particular mars rx could be a good idea.

    thoughts, anyone? i’m not feeling terribly happy about putting off some things i’m *finally* getting the motivation to actually do. grrrr.

  15. Have had a couple of hitches in my giddyup as well, today — this personal planet retro stuff is tricky. Some of you old hands at astrology may remember a syndicated radio astrologer known as the Cosmic Muffin. His name was Darrell Martini, he was the official astrologer of Massachusetts and he was a real hoot! I never missed him on the way to work in the early 80s. After telling what was up with the planets, he’d give the day a rating 1 – 10 and he was pretty accurate.

    I remember the Muffin saying that Mars retro was inauspicious for starting anything new, that projects begun under the retro would eventually fail, even if they lingered for a long while. He noted WWII, Hitler ignoring his astrologers — and that was one LOOOOONG costly failure for the Third Reich and, ultimately, humankind. I would have preferred a shorter example.

    Anyhow — just passing that along and tipping my hat to the Muffin, who died a few years back. I think of him every time Mars backs up. He was a good one.

  16. Amanda (and Carol):
    Thank you for the heads-up. Speaking of heads. If astrology is correct and Sun is the archetype of consciousness, could human consciousness be experiencing a flare-up in synchronicity? Like Eric recently wrote: Uranus (revolution) square Pluto (evolution).

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