Posts Tagged ‘space

12
Jan
09

NASA warns of large radiation storm 2011?

the register

 

A study funded by NASA has flagged up yet another terrible hazard for those no longer able to get excited about nuclear war, global pandemics, terrorism, climate change, economic meltdown and asteroid strike. Top space brainboxes say that even if the human race survives all those, there is a serious risk of civilisation being brought crashing to its knees by a sudden high-intensity solar radiation storm.

solar_storm

In essence, the report, which can be downloaded in pdf here (free registration required) says that sooner or later there will be a solar storm much more powerful than any seen so far in the age of high technology. Such events have occurred in the past, but as the human race then had very basic electrical power grids (or none at all) and made no use of satellites, it didn’t matter.

The next space radiation biggy, however, will hit a human civilisation which is becoming more and more dependent on satellites for essential communication and navigation tasks, and whose electrical grids are much more widespread and heavily stressed. The impact of a bad geomagnetic spike would be somewhat as though an unbelievably powerful electromagnetic pulse bomb – of the sort favoured by movie villains but not yet available – had gone off:

While a severe storm is a low-frequency-of-occurrence event, it has the potential for long-duration catastrophic impacts to the power grid and its users. Impacts would be felt on interdependent infrastructures, with, for example, potable water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in about 12-24 hours; and immediate or eventual loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, transportation, fuel resupply, and so on …Open access on the transmission system has fostered the transport of large amounts of energy across the power system in order to maximize the economic benefit of delivering the lowest-cost energy to areas of demand. The magnitude of power transfers has grown, and the risk is that the increased level of transfers, coupled with multiple equipment failures, could worsen the impacts of a storm event …

In summary, present U.S. grid operational procedures … are unlikely to be adequate for historically large disturbance events.

The impact on satellites would be even more severe, as spacecraft have less shielding from the Earth’s atmosphere – and in some cases from the magnetosphere. In particular, the present Global Positioning System (GPS) sat constellation, used by almost every navigation system in the world, is regarded as highly vulnerable to a solar event – though new satellites are to go up shortly equipped with a backup signal which will allow errors to be bowled out.

In general, however, the assembled brainboxes considered that a solar event was a much greater threat to essential space infrastructure than any evil foreign power – for instance – could possibly be. The US military has previously warned of the risk of a “space Pearl Harbour” – a devastating surprise attack against America’s space presence, which could leave the world’s sole superpower blinded and crippled. According to the National Academy, though, the USA should forget about a space Pearl Harbour and worry instead about “a space Katrina, a storm that we should have been prepared for but were not”.

I guess we should be working on our force fields.

20
Oct
08

the black knight satellite

Black Knight is the name given to a radar blip discovered in 1960. This mystery satellite was found in a polar orbit, something neither the US nor the Soviets had accomplished. It was several times larger and several times heavier than anything capable of being launched with 1960 rockets. It shouldn’t have been there, but it was.

If that weren’t enough, ham operators began receiving odd messages from the Black Knight. One operator decoded a series of these messages as a star map. The map centered on Epsilon Bootes as seen from the earth 13,000 years ago. Remember, stars don’t move very far even after 13,000 years, and Epsilon Bootes is moving towards us. Only the neighboring stars appear different after that amount of time. Was the Black Knight an alien calling card?

Perhaps the strangest effect associated with the Black Knight is the Long Delay Echo (LDE). The effect observed is that radio or television signals sent into space bounce back seconds (or even days) later, as if recorded and retransmitted by a satellite. They didn’t begin with the Black Knight, but they were part of its mystery. Keel places the earliest LDEs in the 1920s. It’s not in Keel’s book, but in 1974 another mystery entered earth orbit. No radar saw it. No ham operator listened to it. One man contacted it- or rather, was contacted by it. That man was science fiction author Philip K. Dick (1928-1982).

Phillip Kindred Dick blew my mind when I discovered his works through a friend in the early 1990’s. At the time Blade Runner was the cyberpunk classic film, but PDK’s books still seemed obscure to most. since then several more films have been made based on his books have stacked up, Total Recall, Confessions d’un Barjo, Screamers, Imposter, Minority Report, Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly, and Next.

In production is a adaptation of Radio Free Albemuth one of my favorite of his books. It deals with his 1974 experience of being contacted by the Black Knight, or what he called VALIS, the Vast Active Living Intelligence System. VALIS revealed itself to Dick as an ancient satellite from another world. It was sent here long ago by three-eyed, crab-clawed beings from a planet orbiting Fomalhaut. They built our civilization, taught us writing and science, then returned to their own world. VALIS was left behind to prod certain individuals when civilization needed a boost. 

Dick wrote down his many “mystic” experiences. When he died eight years later, he was still unsure of their origin or their meaning. Left behind was what he called the Exegesis, an 8000- page, one-million-word continuing dialogue with himself written late, late at night. This is where we go to find the Black Knight’s return.

Exegesis remains unpublished in its original form but became the material for several other book. Radio Free Albemuth being one of them. Go and read the book now.

There are also 2 more movies based on PDK in the works, a sequel to Screamers, and PDK biopic, called The Owl in Daylight. Maybe all this new activity is actually being created by the PDK Android that is M.I.A.? is this english model Actroid now his new wife?

Here is a pic from the movie production, Radio Free Albemuth.

“Friends of the American People”

Read an interview with the director.

test your total recall with the PDK quiz.

02
Oct
08

Spotless Sun: Blankest Year of the Space Age

From: Nasa  

Sept. 30, 2008: Astronomers who count sunspots have announced that 2008 is now the “blankest year” of the Space Age.

As of Sept. 27, 2008, the sun had been blank, i.e., had no visible sunspots, on 200 days of the year. To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go back to 1954, three years before the launch of Sputnik, when the sun was blank 241 times.

“Sunspot counts are at a 50-year low,” says solar physicist David Hathaway of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. “We’re experiencing a deep minimum of the solar cycle.”

A spotless day looks like this:

A SOHO image of the sun taken Sept. 27, 2008.

The image, taken by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) on Sept. 27, 2008, shows a solar disk completely unmarked by sunspots. For comparison, a SOHO image taken seven years earlier on Sept. 27, 2001, is peppered with colossal sunspots, all crackling with solar flares: image. The difference is the phase of the 11-year solar cycle. 2001 was a year of solar maximum, with lots of sunspots, solar flares and geomagnetic storms. 2008 is at the cycle’s opposite extreme, solar minimum, a quiet time on the sun.

And it is a very quiet time. If solar activity continues as low as it has been, 2008 could rack up a whopping 290 spotless days by the end of December, making it a century-level year in terms of spotlessness.

Hathaway cautions that this development may sound more exciting than it actually is: “While the solar minimum of 2008 is shaping up to be the deepest of the Space Age, it is still unremarkable compared to the long and deep solar minima of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Those earlier minima routinely racked up 200 to 300 spotless days per year.

As an example he offers helioseismology: “By monitoring the sun’s vibrating surface, helioseismologists can probe the stellar interior in much the same way geologists use earthquakes to probe inside Earth. With sunspots out of the way, we gain a better view of the sun’s subsurface winds and inner magnetic dynamo.” 

“There is also the matter of solar irradiance,” adds Pesnell. “Researchers are now seeing the dimmest sun in their records. The change is small, just a fraction of a percent, but significant. Questions about effects on climate are natural if the sun continues to dim.”

Coinciding with the string of blank suns is a 50-year record low in solar wind pressure, a recent discovery of the Ulysses spacecraft. (See the Science@NASA story Solar Wind Loses Pressure.) The pressure drop began years before the current minimum, so it is unclear how the two phenomena are connected, if at all. This is another mystery for SDO and the others.

 




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