Aug. 5, 2013
Something big is happening on the sun. The sun’s global magnetic field is poised to reverse polarity, a sign that Solar Max has arrived.
The Sun’s Magnetic Field is about to Flip
August 5, 2013: Something big is about to happen on the sun. According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun’s vast magnetic field is about to flip.
“It looks like we’re no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal," says solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University. “This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system."
Giant hole’ in sun spotted by NASA
July 31, 2013, 10:47 pm
By Nick Collins, Science Correspondent
The European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO, captured this image of gigantic coronal hole hovering over the sun’s North Pole on July 28, 2013, at 9.06 am EDT
A giant “hole" covering nearly a quarter of the Sun’s atmospheric surface has been caught on camera by a NASA telescope.
The darker section at the top of the Sun in the above video is a coronal hole – part of the star’s atmosphere where its magnetic field bursts open and spurts streams of solar material out into space.
It appears as a dark “hole" on the surface of the sun because the process makes its atmosphere cooler and less dense than those around it.
The footage was captured between July 13-18 by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, a five-year mission aimed at learning more about how “space weather" released by the sun affects astronauts, satellites, other planets and Earth itself.
The coronal hole pictured last month is particularly large, measuring at least 400,000 miles across – more than the width of 50 Earths placed side by side.
Although it looks dark and lifeless it was likely releasing fast solar wind, or streams of charged particles, at up to 500 miles per second.
This is about twice as fast as the normal solar wind, which is constantly being released by the Sun in all directions across the entire Solar System.
Coronal holes were first discovered in the 1970s and their size and number are known to fluctuate in tandem with the Sun’s natural eleven-year cycle.
The holes move closer to the poles of the Sun as it enters the most active phase of its cycle, the solar maximum, which is scheduled for later this year or early 2014.
“While it’s unclear what causes coronal holes, they correlate to areas on the sun where magnetic fields soar up and away, failing to loop back down to the surface, as they do elsewhere," NASA’s Karen Fox said.
Piece of Sun Missing, Flying Toward Earth
A large piece of the sun has ripped off and is headed our way at 2 million miles per hour, according to Fox News Insider.
A large piece of the sun has ripped off and is headed our way at 2 million miles per hour, according to Fox News Insider.
Although it sounds scary, according to the news source, it’s nothing to be too alarmed about. The phenomenon is called a coronal hole and develops when a “portion of its magnetic field fails to loop back onto the surface,” Discover Magazine’s blog reports.
Apparently, this coronal hole is larger than most of them that occur, which is what all of the fuss is about. When the piece of the sun collides with the earth, the biggest disturbances will be to GPS systems and satellites, according to Fox News Insider.
Remarkable Images of the Sun Revealed with the New Solar Telescope
The sun has some fascinating features, spawning solar flares and coronal mass ejections that hurl billions of particles into space. Now, researchers have obtained new and remarkably detailed photos of our nearest star with help from the New Solar Telescope (NST). These images reveal never-before-seen details of solar magnetism with phosphoric and chromospheric features.
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Understanding the sun and its behavior is crucial for the future. Solar particles hurled from our nearest star can disrupt both communications and satellites, which means that predicting this type of space weather is important for preventing blackouts. This new instrument can help reveal details that could help with this type of goal.
One of the images shows a lawn-shaped pattern, revealing ultrafine magnetic loops rooted in the photosphere below. The other, in contrast, shows one of the most precise images of a sunspot ever taken.
A text book version of a sunspot looks a bit like a daisy with many petals; the dark core is the umbra while the petals are the penumbra. Yet with the unprecedented resolution of the new instrument, the researchers could see many previously unknown small-scale sunspot features, such as twisting flows along the penumbra’s less dark filaments and the complicated dynamic motion in the light bridge vertically spanning the umbra’s darkest part.
“With our new generation visible imaging spectrometer (VIS), the solar atmosphere from the photosphere to the chromosphere can be monitored in near real time," said Wenda Cao, NJIT Associate Professor of Physics, in a news release.
Currently, the telescope is being upgraded to include the only solar multi-conjugate adaptive optics system. The goal is to fully correct atmospheric distortion over a wide field of view and the ability to probe the sun in near infrared. In the meantime, it’s producing some fantastic images of our closest star that the public, as well as scientists, can appreciate.
Every 11 years, the magnetic field of the Sun flips. This powerful force that drive sunspots, solar flares and huge explosions of solar material, flips over, like a egg-timer being tipped on its head, but messier.
And it’s happening right now.
Inside the furnace that gives life to our planet, the incredible heat strips atoms into their constituent nuclei and electrons, which slosh around like water in an ocean. This “flow and turbulent motion" of charged particles creates the Sun’s magnetic field, says Jonathan Eastwood, a lecturer in Space and Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London.
Across the solar system and beyond, the effect of this magnetic field is felt. It is carried out into space by the solar wind, a stream of particles emanating from the Sun. As the magnetic field stretches into space it creates a “current sheet" that extends out from the Sun’s equator.
Above the current sheet, the magnetic polarity is “North" and below the sheet it is “South". In simple terms, it’s like a frilly dress of electrical current that stretches from the Sun’s equator all the way to Pluto and billions of kilometres beyond, splitting the Sun’s magnetic field.
Every 11 years, for reasons that are still unknown, the magnetic field flips. North becomes South and South becomes North. But the switch isn’t as clean as a simple swap.
The flip coincides with a peak in solar activity. “Solar maxiumum" as it is known, is when the Sun is feverish with activity. There are more sunspots, which are concentrated regions of magnetic field bubbling up on the surface, and many more solar eruptions like solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are caused by the magnetic field loops bursting up out of the surface, and then breaking, releasing huge amounts of energy — when CMEs are directed towards Earth they can disrupt satellites and power grids.
“At solar maximum, the magnetic field is just a big mess," says Eastwood. “Exactly how [it] reverses is still not well understood [but] what we can see is that the magnetic field becomes much more complicated".
Instead of a simple bar magnet structure, with a top and bottom, the magnetic field structure becomes more octopus-like, with many magnetic poles, instead of just two.
During this noisy phase, the hemispheres do not change polarity necessarily at the same rate. As the Sun calms down, it returns to a bar magnet structure, but with the polarity reversed.
Major Solar Storm Could Be Heading for Earth
In a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) solar material streaks out through the interplanetary medium, impacting any planet or spacecraft in its path. (NOAA)
July 22, 2013
The worst known geomagnetic solar storm hit Earth in 1859, observed and sketched by astronomer Richard Carrington. The Carrington event upset global telegraph communications. Surprised operators watched sparks fly from telegraph lines and set telegraph paper on fire.
While not nearly as powerful, other storms in history have cut power, knocked out telephone service, short-circuited satellites and caused radio blackouts.
Major solar storm overdue
The Earth is overdue for another Carrington-like storm, according to a new report released by Lloyd’s of London, the world oldest insurance market.
Major Solar Storm Could Be Heading for Earth
Co-author Neil Smith says it could be even more devastating, given the worldwide dependence on electric power supply grids.
“We are estimating that 20-40 million people might be without power from anywhere up to one, even two years," he said. “That has to do with the critical issue of replacement transformers. That number of people without power could result in an economic cost somewhere between $0.6 trillion to $2.6 trillion.”
The focus of the report is North America. Smith says the continent’s geologic features and aging infrastructure put it at high risk for bad solar weather. The power grid, satellites, aircraft communications, astronauts and oil pipelines are particularly vulnerable. “If there was a big solar flare, it could of course knock out a whole lot of transformers.”
Improved computer models
Michael Wiltberger, a scientist at the High Altitude Observatory of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, builds models to track the sun cycle, ultimately to better predict solar weather.
He observes coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that race through the solar system at speeds of three million to five million kilometers per hour. They reach Earth in less than two days. Wiltberger sees them, at the speed of light, less than eight minutes after an eruption on the sun.
That gives space weather forecasters some lead time, but Wiltberger says predicting precisely when and where a storm will hit is much more complex.
“The real challenge that we have, that we are struggling with and trying to build into our numerical models, is to understand what the magnetic field is going to be inside this hot gas that is coming out," he said, “because it’s that magnetic field that is the key that unlocks the entry of energy and mass into the Earth’s, near-Earth’s region.”
Wiltberger says the models could provide a framework to monitor a storm and improve predictions. He hopes that system will be operational within five years.
Greater international cooperation needed
In the meantime, Neil Smith of Lloyd’s of London is calling for greater cooperation to mitigate the impact before the next big storm comes on the horizon.
“We are just raising awareness of the issue, because step one is to get different parties aware that this is a potential issue," he said. “And then we need to work with governments and the utility industry to tackle it. It’s not something that any one party could actually solve on their own.”
Smith adds that such work is critically important, to avoid what could become large-scale economic and societal chaos.
The ‘gigantic hole’ in the SUN that’s firing solar material into space and was spotted by a spacecraft
- The massive coronal hole – a dark, low density region of the sun’s outermost atmosphere – covered a quarter of the sun
- Spotted by the SOHO spacecraft, coronal holes contain little solar material, have lower temperatures and appear much darker than their surroundings
- Scientists are studying the holes to learn more about space weather, that could one day affect life on Earth
PUBLISHED: 15:26 GMT, 29 July 2013 | UPDATED: 23:08 GMT, 29 July 2013
A ‘gigantic hole’ in the sun’s atmosphere, hovering over the solar north pole, has been photographed by a space telescope.
The dark spot, which covers almost a quarter of the sun, is a large ‘coronal hole’ – a dark, low density region of the sun’s outermost atmosphere, the corona.
It was spotted by the European Space Agency/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft between 13 and 18 July, during which time it was spewing out material including solar wind into space.
Scroll down for video…
A ‘gigantic hole’ in the sun’s atmosphere, hovering over the solar north pole, has been photographed by a space telescope. The dark spot (pictured), which covers almost a quarter of the sun, is a large coronal hole
While the hole looks devoid of solar activity, it was in fact releasing violent blasts of solar wind and spewing out solar particles at around 500 miles per second.
The holes have lower temperatures and therefore appear much darker than their surroundings.
Karen Fox of Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre said that while coronal holes are a typical feature on the sun, they appear at different places and with more frequency at different times of the sun’s activity cycle, which typically takes around 11 years.
The sun’s activity cycle is currently ramping up toward what is known as solar maximum, predicted for late 2013 – during which time the number of coronal holes decreases.
During solar maximum, the magnetic fields on the sun reverse and new coronal holes appear near the poles with the opposite magnetic alignment.
The coronal holes then increase in size and number, extending further from the poles as the sun moves toward solar minimum again.
At such times, coronal holes have appeared that are even larger than this one, which measures approximately 400,000 miles across, or the equivalent to 50 Earths in a row.
While it’s unclear what causes holes, they correlate to areas on the sun where magnetic fields soar up and away, failing to loop back down to the surface, as they do elsewhere.
Scientists study coronal holes to learn more about space weather, as the holes are the source of a high-speed wind of solar particles that streams off the sun some three times faster than the slower wind elsewhere.
Scientists study coronal holes (pictured) to learn about space weather. The holes are the source of a high-speed wind of solar particles that streams off the sun three times faster than the slower wind elsewhere
While space weather might sound like an unimportant issue to us, a report published earlier this year by the Royal Academy of Engineering recommended that the UK should plan to mitigate the effects of a rare but potentially serious solar superstorm, where explosive eruptions of energy from the Sun could cause damage.
It is thought that serious space weather could degrade the performance of the electricity grid, satellites, GPS systems, aviation and possibly mobile communications on Earth.
The image of the coronal hole was taken by the $1.3 billion SOHO spacecraft, launched in 1995 to monitor solar activity from a stable point between the sun and the earth.
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Sinkhole opens in Montgomery Township pond
Posted: Sunday, August 11, 2013 8:00 pm | Updated: 9:00 pm, Sun Aug 11, 2013.
By Kimberly Flanders Staff Writer
Posted on August 11, 2013
Members and residents of PineCrest Country Club in Montgomery Township woke up Saturday to find a large pond on the golf course with significantly less water; some suspected it was a sinkhole.
According to resident Melissa Jo Tradewell, the sinkhole was caused due to a pipe collapsing. Tradewell said that fish in the pond were dying, and after failed attempts to contact the Montgomery County SPCA, the Gaming Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, Aark Animal Hospital, PineCrest Homeowner’s Association and the PineCrest Golf Club, she and her husband, Ashley, couldn’t wait any longer to help the dying fish.
“My husband spent the afternoon in the mucky pond water, trying to save the fish. According to what a PineCrest worker told Ashley … nothing will be done about the sink hole until sometime next week when an engineer will be out to assess the problem," she said.
Tradewell noted that Sgt. Glenn Davis of Montgomery Township police came out to assess the situation, and his actions were nothing short of “admirable" and “an excellent showing of community and care."
Davis said he was told by maintenance crews that the sinkhole was actually caused when an overflow culvert, which was designed to prevent the pond from flooding, collapsed underneath the pond, causing water to drain.
“Before I got there, a couple of the residents had gone out and rescued the fish, unfortunately they couldn’t save all of them. They were trying to get the fish into an adjacent pond," Davis noted of the rescue efforts.
He said he put caution tape around the area to prevent residents from falling or getting stuck in the mud, and said PineCrest is aware of the situation.
“As soon as possible they will probably have someone out there to assess the situation. The residents were concerned that it was a sinkhole that would intrude into the property lines," he said.
PineCrest was unable to be reached for comment.
PineCrest Resident Saves Fish After Sinkhole Forms in Pond
Ashley Tradewell sprung into action Saturday after a pipe supposedly burst, causing a sinkhole in the middle of a pond on PineCrest Golf Course. Melissa Tradewell commended her husband and Montgomery Township Police Sgt. Glenn Davis for their aid.
The Tradewells, residents at PineCrest community at PineCrest Country Club in Montgomery Township, woke up Saturday morning to find a sinkhole in the middle of a pond on the golf course.
“It was due to a pipe collapsing, according to what we, the residents, were told," said Melissa Jo Tradewell.
After no luck in contacting the Montgomery County SPCA, the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, Aark Animal Hospital, PineCrest Homeowners’ Association and PineCrest Country Club—Melissa Tradewell said these places were either unavailable or no one would help—Melissa Jo Tradewell’s husband, Ashley, sprung into action.Ashely Tradewell spent a good amount of his Saturday afternoon in murky pond water, saving the fish and other marine life.
“According to what a PineCrest worker told him, myself and Sgt. Glenn Davis of Montgomery Township Police, nothing will be done about the sinkhole until sometime next week, when an engineer will be out to assess the problem," Melissa Tradewell said.
Tradewell said Davis and another Montgomery Township officer responded Saturday to assess the situation and put up “Caution" tape around the pond.
“Officer Davis stopped by a second time to check up on the situation," she said.
Tradewell said Sgt. Davis and her husband deserve recognition.
“I thought that what my husband did by trying to save the fish when no one else would or was available, and Officer Davis for checking up on the situation, to be admirable and an excellent showing of community and care," she said.
Dissolving salt likely cause of Wallace sinkhole
By MIKE CORN
WALLACE — Without conducting hugely expensive tests, the cause of the massive sinkhole north of here probably never will be known with absolute certainty.
But University of Kansas geologist Lynn Watney is adamant it’s likely the result of dissolution of salt nearly 2,000 feet below ground that’s behind it all, according to Rex Buchanan, interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey.
And he’s not convinced there would be much to gain by conducting either extensive drilling or seismic testing to make that determination.
That dovetails what Jerome “Pete" Bussen, a Wallace resident who is well-known for collecting fossils in the area, suspects is behind the recent dramatic collapse.
He said water works its way down to the salt formation and washes it away, ultimately leading to the collapse.
The suspect salt formation is known as the Blaine, Buchanan said.
It’s not the first sinkhole that’s developed in Wallace County, or in the pasture where the latest one developed and attracted attention from across the nation. There are three others in the pasture, one of which holds water.
But it’s not something that’s likely to prompt spending big amounts of money to find the exact cause, considering it doesn’t threaten any homes or roads in the area.
Buchanan didn’t even see much point to driving to Wallace County from Garden City, where he was when he first started hearing about the collapse.
Besides, he’s not sure what he’d do once he got there.
He said he certainly wouldn’t approach the edges of the sinkhole because of the threat of further cave-ins as the soil continues breaking off.
“I wouldn’t get close to it, no," he said.
He wasn’t at all surprised when he started receiving word of the collapse, estimated between 200 and 300 feet across and nearly 90 feet deep.
The hole is circled by a series of cracks, some of which are inches wide and more than 4 feet deep, a sure sign more of the loess soil could break away.
“When I heard this was in Wallace County, I said that makes sense to me," Buchanan said Wednesday.
The reason for that is simple enough.
“Because they’ve had them before," he said.
In addition to the sinkholes in the pasture adjacent to the latest collapse, there’s also Old Maid’s Pool northwest of Sharon Springs and Smoky Basin Cave-in east of Sharon Springs.
“There are some places in the state where if you had one, I’d scratch my head," he said.
Wallace County isn’t one of those places.
There isn’t a rush by the KGS to send anyone out to the sinkhole, although Buchanan said they might have had someone in the area Wednesday. It’s unlikely he’ll do anything more than take a few photos.
The only way to know for sure what caused the collapse, he said, would be to either drill down to the salt or conduct seismic tests.
Both would cost “lots of money," Buchanan said.
“At the end of the day, whether it’s the Blaine or it’s something else, it’s still the same," he said of the sinkhole being there.
What he is certain about is the danger it can pose to people who venture close to the edge or even walk down to the bottom.
Those people, he thinks, are in danger because the steep-sided loess soils can slough off at any time.
“Unless you’ve got a good reason to be out there, you ought to stay away," Buchanan said.
And he can’t think of a good reason, unless, of course, it was his pasture.
He’s not even sure it deserves all the attention it’s received.
“Is it a big deal geologically?" he asked. “No, probably not. It’s something we’ve seen before and expect to see again."
Likening a boring activity to watching the grass grow might work for people living in regions of the country unaffected by drought or extended dry spells.
In many parts of barren western Kansas, however, the idiom falls flat. Not only does the industrious nature of area residents preclude having the time to watch a lawn sprout, there’s no guarantee one’s yard or field ever will move beyond a dusty brown hue.
So if something’s going to happen on the ground that isn’t agricultural in nature, it had better be big if it’s going to be noticed.
Something such as the 300-foot wide sinkhole that recently appeared in Wallace County. Estimated at 90 feet deep, the pit has been the talk of the town not only in nearby Wallace but has attracted international media attention. Despite its location on private property and more than a mile from the nearest road, the site has brought curious onlookers by the thousands who do not heed the “no trespassing" signs in place.
“There’s lots of people," said Wallace County Sheriff Larry Townsend. “I would say thousands now. Vans and SUVs and then the bus."
For a sinkhole that didn’t claim the life of somebody sleeping in their own bed, this geological event is attracting a large crowd.
We understand those familiar with the area to have a natural curiosity. If you knew the “before" it’s logical to want to view the “after."
But for busloads of people to make their way to the impromptu tourist attraction? This says a lot more about those people than the sinkhole itself. We would even go so far as to suggest their lives are about as interesting as watching the grass grow.
Wannabe visitors are reminded this is private property, and the owners have requested that trespassers stay out. If that isn’t enough, the sinkhole is growing. The potential danger inherent at such a site is not worth capturing an image with a cellphone.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry
Giant Sinkhole Draws Visitors to Western Kansas
The sinkhole in a Kansas field estimated to be 90 feet deep and 200-300 feet wide. (Wallace County Sheriff’s Department)
SHARON SPRINGS, Kan. — A sinkhole estimated to be about 90 feet deep in western Kansas is drawing so many onlookers that the landowner is pleading for people to stay away.
The sinkhole, which is 200 to 300 feet wide, was discovered July 31 in a pasture several miles north of Sharon Springs on land owned by 82-year-old Margaret Hoss and her family.
It occurred naturally and does not appear to be the result of groundwater depletion or oil or gas drilling, said Rex Buchanan, interim director of the Kansas Geological Survey.
After the sinkhole was publicized, people drove to see it, often ignoring signs to stay off the private pasture, which prompted the Hoss family to erect barricades Monday, The Salina Journal reported. Hoss said she is concerned the traffic will damage fragile grass needed for cattle to forage.
“I’d appreciate some privacy. We’re not running a popularity contest," said Hoss, who said added that state and national media coverage of the sinkhole had made “our life a livin’ hell out here."
Wallace County Sheriff Larry Townsend said he was concerned the visitors could be endangered if the sinkhole suddenly grows.
“The soil tries to level itself. It’s kind of a dangerous place to be gawking around," Townsend said.
Sinkholes occur when soil over an open void caves in. The voids are formed when underground water dissolves rock formations, “in this case probably limestone," Buchanan said.
The hole has a steep face that over time will develop more of a “saucer shape," Buchanan said. He also advises gawkers not approach the sinkhole.
“The best thing you can do with these things is fence them off and walk away," Buchanan said. “There’s nothing good about going down in that thing or getting close to it."