Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 vs. 1859 - Solar Storms

Sun-Earth Day 2011 (Size of Sun)
Stanford's Solar Center,
Stanford University

Deborah Scherrer, Project Lead (Monitoring Solar Storms)

"The problem is solar storms—figuring out how to predict them and stay safe from their effects. We need to make progress on this before the next solar maximum arrives around 2013." ILWS Chairperson Lika Guhathakurta of NASA headquarters, July 16, 2010

August 28, 1859

Developed by Dr. Sten Odenwald, NASA (
On August 28, 1859 a massive solar storm caused spectacular aurora seen all over the globe. It was reported in all the major newspapers, poems were written about it, and famous artists painted its shapes and forms. It also caused severe problems with telegraph networks at the time, which lasted for many hours world-wide. Although scientists gave detailed reports of the changing forms of this vivid display, many ordinary citizens offered their own impressions of this event too. Below are two of these descriptions seen from two different locations.
1. Galveston, Texas:
August 28 as early as twilight closed, the northern sky was reddish, and at times lighter than other portions of the heavens. At 7:30 PM a few streamers showed themselves. Soon the whole sky from Ursa Major to the zodiac in the east was occupied by the streams or spiral columns that rose from the horizon. Spread over the same extent was an exquisite roseate tint which faded and returned. Stately columns of light reaching up about 45 degrees above the horizon moved westward. There were frequent flashes of lightning along the whole extent of the aurora. At 9:00 PM the whole of the streaking had faded leaving only a sort of twilight over the northern sky.
2. London, England:
At 0:15 AM on August 28th the auroral light in the north assumed the form of a luminous arch, similar to daybreak, and in the southwest there was an intense glare of red covering a very large extent of the sky. At 00:20 AM streamers appeared; at 00:25 AM the streamers rose to the zenith and were tinged with crimson at their summits. At 00:45 AM frequent coruscations appeared in the aurora. At 01:20 AM the arch which had partially faded began to reform and the body of the light was very strong but not bright enough to read newspaper print. At 1:30 AM the light had begun to fade. By 2:00 AM the aurora was very indistinct.

2011: Space Weather Monitors

Hear the Sun Sing
Have you ever wondered what the Sun would sound like if you could hear it?
Our Sun lies 93,000,000 miles away, surrounded by the vacuum of space. Sound won't travel through space, of course. But with the right instrument, scientists can "hear" pulsations from the Sun. The entire Sun vibrates from a complex pattern of acoustical waves, much like a bell. If your eyes were sharp enough, you could see a bell's surface jiggle in complex patterns as the waves bounced around within it.
Likewise, astronomers at Stanford University can record acoustical pressure waves in the Sun by carefully tracking movements on the Sun's surface. To do this, they use an instrument called a Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI), mounted on the SOHO spacecraft, circling the Sun 1,000,000 miles from Earth.

Space Weather Monitors:

About the Sun | For Students | For Educators | Space Weather Monitors | Camilla Corona SDO | Ancient Observatories | Solar Folklore | Solar Art & Literature | Glossary | Access to Data

Solar Images and Data
- Includes information on active regions and solar activity from the Global H-alpha Network, Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), GONG+, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Note 1: Galileo's Discoveries - 400 years. In 1609, Galileo first pointed his homemade telescope toward the heavens. Over the next several years he would discover sunspots, the moons of Jupiter, the "seas" and craters on the Moon, and the phases of Venus, and in the words of Albert Einstein, he would become "the father of modern science". Source:

Note 2: SpaceMath@NASA - SpaceMath@NASA introduces students to the use of mathematics in todays scientific discoveries. Through press releases and other articles, we explore how many kinds of mathematics skills come together in exploring the universe. Source:

No comments: