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September 1st, 1859: The Week the Sun Touched the Earth

Boston telegraph operator, (to Portland telegraph operator): "Please cut off your battery entirely from the line for fifteen minutes."
Portland operator: "Will do so. It is now disconnected."
Boston: "Mine is disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you receive my writing?"
Portland: "Better than with our batteries on. Current comes and goes gradually."
Boston: "My current is very strong at times, and we can work better without the batteries, as the Aurora seems to neutralize and augment our batteries alternately, making current too strong at times for our relay magnets. Suppose we work without batteries while we are affected by this trouble."
Portland: "Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?"
Boston: "Yes. Go ahead." — Ars Technica covers the story of the Great Auroral Storm of 1859, and the awe it inspired.
posted by Toekneesan on May 3, 2012 - 23 comments

The Sun is Still a Mass of Incandescent Gas

NASA has released the first STEREO images of the entire sun.
Previous. Previouser. Previousest.
posted by steambadger on Feb 9, 2011 - 17 comments

The Sun is a Mass of Cyclically Furious Gas

"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." Dr. Richard Fisher and other sun-gazing scientists recently discussed the upcoming peak in the 11-year sunspot cycle. Due to the ever-increasing humans' reliance on electrical systems, the storm could leave a multi-billion pound damage bill and "potentially devastating" problems for governments. Constant improvements in satellite designs have assisted in bracing for a solar superstorm, an effort that comes in part by studying the impacts records of activity from past peaks in solar storms. System limits are set based on significant solar storm-triggered events in the past, though the largest magnetic storm on record was before the modern understanding of solar events. The solar storm of 1859, also known as The Carrington Event, when "telegraphs ran on electric air," was experienced around the world. [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Jun 15, 2010 - 52 comments

The Curious Case of the Missing Sunspots

Solar activity normally follows an 11-year cycle. The new cycle was originally predicted to start in early 2008, but despite a few sunspots appearing last year, the Sun still features a remarkable lack of activity - the deepest minimum since 1913. However, NASA's STEREO mission has seen indications that activity is increasing again, in the form of a coronal mass ejection (video [.mov, 3.3 Mb]), with an accompanying radio burst.

[Previously]
posted by Electric Dragon on May 20, 2009 - 16 comments

Intense Solar Flare

The largest solar flare of the current solar cycle shot off the sun earlier today. After the media latched on to what was predicted to be mostly a non-event last week (probably due to a NASA article released around the same time about a super spacestorm) , it's not making as much news this time. But you should pay attention this time. This could be the best and last chance for a lot of us farther south to see some auroras before the sun dives into solar minimum, assuming all the variables line up correctly this time. I recommend watching the Solar Terrestrial Dispatch, as it is a great all around resource for solar activity and auroras that includes live data and sightings reports by the general public. Unfortunately though, no doubt as word IS spreading, that site is being hammered again and may be quite slow.
posted by yupislyr on Oct 28, 2003 - 21 comments

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