The early observers of the sun had limited technology to use in observing sun spots. Over the intervening years the technology has improved, allowing scientist to observe and track even smaller and smaller sun spots. Some observers contend this increased use of technology has distorted the sunspot numbers, making comparison with the past sun spot cycles difficult. Now scientist have developed technology to predict the emergence of sun spots.
Sun Acoustic Waves Allow Sunspot PredictionsSunspots can be predicted 1-2 days in advance.The researchers got help from the Michelson Doppler Imager aboard NASAs Solar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite, known as SOHO. The craft spent 15 years making detailed observations of the sound waves within the sun. It was superseded in 2010 with the launch of NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite, which carries the Helioseismic and Magnetic Imager.
Using the masses of data generated by the two imagers, Stathis Ilonidis, a Stanford graduate student in physics, was able to develop a way to reduce the electronic clutter in the data so he could accurately measure the solar sounds.The new method enabled Ilonidis to detect sunspots in the early stages of formation as deep as 65,000 kilometers inside the sun. Between one and two days later, the sunspots would appear on the surface. Ilonidis is the lead author of a paper describing the research, published in the Aug. 19 edition of Science.
The principles used to track and measure the acoustic waves traveling through the sun are comparable to measuring seismic waves on Earth. The researchers measure the travel time of acoustic waves between widely separated points on the solar surface.Why does this matter? The ability to forecast sunspots brings us closer to the ability to forecast solar flares and coronal mass ejections CMEs. That could be a matter of life and death for millions or billions of people. Solar flares are associated with sunspots and potentially disruptive coronal mass ejections CMEs though CMEs can happen independently from solar flares. CMEs happen much more during periods of heavy sunspot activity.
A really strong CME hitting the Earth as happened with the Carrington Event of 1859 would cause an electromagnetic pulse EMP that have devastating consequences for the electric power grid. Which brings us to Jerry Emanuelsons great write-up on the dangers of solar and nuclear electromagnetic pulses. One of the take-home lessons: nuclear EMP is much more damaging than solar EMP from a CME. He also has a useful page about EMP protection at the personal level. How to survive a large scale long-lasting power outage?
Are you prepared? I once ask the editor of Comstock’s Business Magazine if he would like an article to alert readers to dangers of electromagnetic pulses, he said it was “a bad idea, a really bad idea.” Go figure. If you are not prepared you will someday wish you had prepared to insure that you can operate your home without power and communications for an unknown period of time, until power and communication grids can be reconstituted. I was an electronic warfare officer in the Air Force and have some experience with preparing for an nuclear EMP, and know the danger of a solar EMP. Prepare!