Saturday, June 05, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

I'm not talking about summer - I'm talking about solar activity that's about to get really intense. According to experts at NASA, earth and space are about to come into contact in a way that's new to human history. Richard Fisher, head of NASA's Heliophysics Division, explains what it's all about:
"The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity. At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms. The intersection of these two issues is what we're getting together to discuss."
The gathering he refers to is a meeting at the National Press Club on June 8 called The Space Weather Enterprise Forum.
So many of the devices we use - not to mention the power grid - could all be knocked out by an increase in solar flares, storms, or even increased solar activity. According to the National Academy of Sciences, a century-level solar storm "could cause twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina". If main power grids are knocked out for any length of time, I think that projection is woefully understated. Read more about this at NASA.
What I want to find out is, what would be the impact on the solar collection panels used in solar energy systems? Would it mean increased power available through those systems, or would the increase in solar intensity fry those as well? For those of us who are actively planning to convert our home energy sources to those that are renewable, like solar energy systems, this is information I want to know now. But my guess is that solar energy systems, along with wind and water-generated power, might be among the few systems working if the grid were to fail.
In other space news, an old Soviet moon rover that had been out of commission for over 30 years suddenly started working again, and sending laser signals to earth. Wow. What's up with that?

4 Comments:

Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

It's generally agreed that solar flare activity tends to follow eleven-year cycles, with some even claiming the infamous Mayan calendar date of 2012 as being the apex of the next great firestorms. Some predict activity that's fifty-percent stronger than the last; others believe it may result in the end of the world.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Anna Van Z said...

While I don't think it'll be the end of the world, the potential for major fuck-ups is significant, to say the least!

12:33 AM  
Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

"Major fuck-ups" is probably an understatement.

With our increasingly expanding "web of interdependencies", solar flare activity, accompanied by extreme geomagnetic storms, could create major problems.

So...you don't think we'll become a bunch of post toasties? ;-)

7:00 AM  
Blogger Jefferson's Guardian said...

Here's a free resource, a book titled The 23rd Cycle: Learning to live with a stormy star. It makes reference that even energy independence through solar panel technology isn't completely free from the pitfalls of solar flare activity, although I'm not completely sure why, and nor am I sure that's correct.

I'll keep looking and I'll get back to you about your question.

7:55 AM  

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