Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Communications Science

Recent Solar Flare Could Disrupt Communications 216

w98 writes "CNN has reported that the 4th largest solar flare in the last 15 years may disrupt communications. "Significant solar eruptions are possible in the coming days and there could be disruptions in spacecraft operations, electric power systems, high frequency communications and low-frequency navigation systems," says the article."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Recent Solar Flare Could Disrupt Communications

Comments Filter:
  • Excellent! (Score:4, Funny)

    by TripMaster Monkey (862126) * on Thursday September 08, 2005 @03:53PM (#13512389)

    This ought to provide a good excuse for various network problems for a few weeks.... ^_^
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:06PM (#13512515)
      > This ought to provide a good excuse for various network problems for a few weeks.... ^_^

      Attention, troops stationed in New Orleans. Execute Order 66!

      • lol (Score:5, Funny)

        by Idealius (688975) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:09PM (#13512537) Journal
        Who are the jedi?

        The looters?
        • Re:lol (Score:5, Funny)

          by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:29PM (#13512682)
          > > > > This ought to provide a good excuse for various network problems for a few weeks.... ^_^
          > > Attention, troops stationed in New Orleans. Execute Order 66!
          > Who are the jedi?
          > The looters?

          "Yes, Lord! We need reinforcements, it's like a scene from Star Wars Galaxies down there!"
          - NL-421

          Seriously, I hate to duck a BOFH reference, but you know someone's gonna try and work the communications disruptions into a Katrina conspiracy theory... or use the expected communications disruptions as cover for a real conspiracy... or perhaps Karl Rove has a machine that can cause a solar flare, which is what he's using to disrupt communications as part of the metaconspiracy. Or all three, because making up non-falsifiable hypotheses is fun!

          And on that point, I can only say "Ha Ha, Only Serious". The reason conspiracy theories have "legs" is precisely because looking for conspiracies (real or imaginary) is fun. Our brains evolved in an environment where the ability to outguess our fellow primate band members was an extremely useful survival trait. So not only is inventing conspiracy theories fun, it's fun for a very good reason.

          So trust the Computer. The Computer is your Friend. Because it's not paranoia when they really are out to get you. (Confused yet? Good!)

    • Personally, I'm waiting to hear how this is a result of Bush's environmental policies.

      On the other hand, the 4th largest in the last 15 years. Wow, that's quite a record and part of a very disturbing trend no less. Time to move to the hills and hide in a cave.
    • Har- don't laugh. I know I will use it for an excuse to not call people back, or to do the fake call drop on my cell. "I didn't hang up- it was the solar flares..."
      Low frequency products: Soap, Condoms
      High Fequency Items: Lube, Dirty Magazines...
      This is a more serious issue now that many of us (18-35) don't have land line phones, just cells.
  • by geomon (78680) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @03:53PM (#13512394) Homepage Journal
    The same process that creates Coronal Mass Ejections will finally free humanity from the constraints of energy dependency! Charles Cagle, friend to everyone on sci.physics and sci.physics.fusion has created an unlimited energy supply [] patterned after CMEs.

    But beware: you must never show disdain for the New and Apocalypic Physics! Disbelievers will be CONSUMED by the fires of the sun in a mighty CME that will lay waste to those who do not follow Brother Charley!
  • by Anonymous Crowhead (577505) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @03:54PM (#13512395)
    ...only one thing - invasion.
  • by winkydink (650484) * <> on Thursday September 08, 2005 @03:54PM (#13512400) Homepage Journal
    from the looks of the picture on CNN's site, we're well and truly screwed.
  • Great... (Score:4, Funny)

    by kaellinn18 (707759) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @03:55PM (#13512404) Homepage Journal
    Cue a bunch of slashdot posts with people getting cut off in the mid...##KR2F@F@$F$ {NO CARRIER}
  • Northern lights? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by infolib (618234) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @03:58PM (#13512433)
    What's the chance of seeing them?
    I live on 56N12E
  • by Neurotoxic666 (679255) <neurotoxic666&hotmail,com> on Thursday September 08, 2005 @03:58PM (#13512436) Homepage
    Power outage? Communication disruption? On CNN?

    Hey, I'm surprised they haven't used the T word yet =)
  • SpaceWeather. (Score:5, Informative)

    by hot_Karls_bad_cavern (759797) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @03:59PM (#13512445) Journal
    Here you go. []

  • by TaleSpinner (96034) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:01PM (#13512470)
    Damn that global warming! Now it's screwing up the sun!

  • Kind of late... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by josecanuc (91) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:03PM (#13512484) Homepage Journal
    So these flares cause electromagnetic activity that occurs pretty quickly. According to the article, their source was NOAA's Space Environment Center, and they handily included a link to said department.

    According to the information at NOAA, the effects from this event will end by the morning of Sept 8. In other words, it's all over now, if you wanted to prepare.

    Now, along with these often comes CME (coronal mass ejections), but this event wasn't facing Earth, so there won't be any of that material heading our way.

    I have to ask what good it does for CNN to post this information as though it is an alert to prepare, rather than as an after-the-fact notice?
    • Re:Kind of late... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Bob(TM) (104510)
      A couple of points to keep in mind, however ...

      * the active region will be on the disk for a couple of weeks and will most likely continue being very active.

      * CME's can range in speed and have a delayed effect on the geomagnetic field. Granted, emissions at that point on the disk may not be well positioned for effect, there can be considerable delay in generating storm conditions. It can take many hours - it's a long way.
      • It kind of sucks then that CNN's article did not mention that with this historically-active region becoming earth-facing, we might see more of these in the near future.

        I'm basically fed up with news these days...
        I would wonder if CNN has any space geeks on their payroll whose job it is to say "hey, this doesn't say what happened in the most accurate way." It matters to some...
    • They may have believed it was news-worthy due to the flare being the fourth largest within the last 15 years, especially for for those who like to follow science (like Slashdot's nerds?). Add to that the fact that this could just be the start - "Significant solar eruptions are possible in the coming days..."

      Also, while it may not have been aimed at earth, it could possibly have been aimed at any number of space probes that have been sent into space. Does anyone know?
    • ah-ha!

      You know I live in Colorado at more than a mile above sea-level and the last two times a solar flare was belatedly announced on Slashdot I had cell phone calls drop the day they were to have occurred multiple times.

      I wonder if higher elevation significantly affects the probability of a solar flare disrupting communication with a cell phone tower.

      I couldn't see that it would, probably just a coincidence.

      Maybe it has to do more with the mountains in combination with solar flares.
      • Download & install gkrellm []
      • Download & install Gkrellkam [] plugin (it's for getting images from webcams).
      • Set up the gkrellkam plugin to get the image from 24/latest.gif [], which is a LASCO instrument at SOHO (which we are turning into the world's most expensive webcam IMHO).
      • Also, set the number of second per update at 3600, so your image will update every hour (I don't know exactly the update times at soho website, I think 1 hour i
  • NOAA Article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Gadgetfreak (97865) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:03PM (#13512485)
    NOAA [] also has an article, [] with pictures and a movie, too.

  • FEMA (Score:2, Funny)

    by fr3nch_com (913407)
    Now they have an excuse to screw up even more.
  • Not All Bad (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dr. Mu (603661) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:06PM (#13512521)
    At least while we're standing on our roofs yelling into our cellphones, "Can you hear me now?", we can be enjoying the spectacular aurora borealis.
  • by MisterLawyer (770687) <mikelawyer@gmail. c o m> on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:07PM (#13512523)
    The biggest flare ever [] recorded was on April 2, 2001.

    This led to the coolest desktop picture ever [] (2400x2400, about 1 meg, be sure to wear sunglasses).

    Cool quote FTA: "Luckily, the flare was not aimed directly towards Earth!"

  • Global warming is even affecting the weather on the sun! It's a joke . . . ah say . . . it's a joke, sun.
  • by SuperBanana (662181) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:09PM (#13512531)
    "and low-frequency navigation systems"

    I'm not positive, but I believe they're referring to ADF beacons, which are not used very much these days, except to confirm VHF beacons, and ADF technology is not terribly reliable (receivers can be fooled by lightning, for example.) Pilots are told to listen to the received audio carrier (which I believe contains a morse code sequence) to make sure they have a valid signal.

    Given that GPS was relatively popular in planes even 15 years ago (before they had ILS-certified GPS systems, so GPS has only become more popular) I can't see this being a problem except for some parts of the general aviation community which haven't chosen to install GPS panel-mount units or at least buy a handheld unit.

    I suppose they could also be referring to LORAN/LORAN-C (used mostly by boats, save during WW2), but...jesus christ, I hope nobody's still relying on LORAN...maybe as a backup to GPS, sure...but...yikes.

    • "'and low-frequency navigation systems'

      I'm not positive, but I believe they're referring to ADF beacons"

      What about cetacean navigational systems? Why don't they care about the whales?
      • I know you're trolling, but just to avoid any (please, hopefully nonexistent) confusion out there... The article is referring to electromagnetic waves and whales use sound waves to navigate. Not the same thing...
    • We still use LORAN when we go deep sea fishing. It seems that the LORAN gets you a bit closer to where you really want to be and where the fish are biting than the GPS. This is in all likelihood do to the old GPS units, and that all of the LORAN->GPS numbers for the canyons were done while the signal was still scrambled. I'd imagine most of the LORAN numbers are probably 500 feet closer than the GPS numbers that we have recorded. Having said that, it is just as likely that it is just a case of parano
    • Loran (90-110 khz) is still operational, but if you want real low frequency navigation, you want Omega (10-14 khz) []. Omega ceased operations in 1997, but while operational its signals had a wavelength of around 25 kilometers, and were transmitted by 8 stations scattered across the globe. By receiving signals from three stations, am Omega receiver could locate a position to within 4 nm using the principle of phase comparison of signals. This made Loran-C (accuracy better than .25 nm) look damn accurate in com
    • Not VLF, but HF is used for communcations by Trans-Pacific flights.
      Pretty much every night that I listen to NOPAC [] I hear flights across the Pacific calling to Alaska or other points, getting info about flight conditions and spacing for other planes. When the HF is out, the planes form a relay network using VHF from plane to plane to relay messages. If that fails, the planes are supposed to make right-angle turns and space themselves out north and south of the route, to keep them from running into each oth
  • Not only the 4th largest in the last 15 years, but also the 5th largest in the last 30 years, which is from the beginning of measurements in 1976: html []

    There have also been reports, that the 10cm radio flux with 27000 sfu has been even greater, than that of the 04/11/03 event.
  • by pete-classic (75983) <> on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:10PM (#13512547) Homepage Journal
    BOFHs everywhere rejoice!

  • by Piewalker (777952) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:12PM (#13512566) Homepage
    Does anyone remember in the IMAX documentary Solarmax where a super solar flare is mentioned? If I remember correctly, a super-duper solar flare is long overdue, and it has the potential of wiping out our entire satellite fleet. Also, here you can find a more detailed account of the recent solar flare than the AP article that appears on CNN: re.html []
  • by Ryosen (234440) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:19PM (#13512604)
    In related news, oil jumped $5.50 a barrel today on speculation that the disruption to cell phones, caused by the flairs, would prevent people from checking as they drive around town looking for who has the cheapest gas. Congress is expected to wave its arms in helpless frustration, shouting out "Oh, look, An Eagle!"
  • by north.coaster (136450) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:19PM (#13512611) Homepage

    According to [], the sun spot that trigged this flare just became visible after transiting the far side of the sun for the past two weeks. Explosions later this week and next could produce some lovely September auroras.

  • Damn right it is (Score:1, Redundant)

    by m50d (797211)
    Took me the best part of two minutes to load this discussion page, and getting a reply page took anoø!%$^$@£ NO CARRIER
  • I'm not having any problems with !@#$ [NO CARRIER]
  • I knew I shouldn't have bought that satellite phone just yet.
  • by robyannetta (820243) * on Thursday September 08, 2005 @04:42PM (#13512820) Homepage
    Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
    Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
    Ray: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff.
    Venkman: Exactly.
    Ray: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.
    Egon: Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes...
    Winston: The dead rising from the grave.
    Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria!
  • Imagine there was a perminant, or at least very long term disruption of these systems. How would we cope? Are people working on alternative forms of communication, electrical, and other systems that are immune to these kind of effects? Just how long would it take humanity to recover? Would it even be possible? Or would such a challenge simply encourgae us to find better, different means to implement the functionality of those systems?
  • ...that communications were being disrupted, even if they didn't really understand that a solar flare was the reason why reception is lousy... All I could get clearly was channel 7 in my area ,which worked out just fine since it was showing the one show I was interested in - Lost.
  • We should all bow to the mightiest slashdotter of them all! []

    - Jonathan
  • Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?
  • []

    An X20+ in 1991, and we all survived.

    I wouldn't be too worried unless I was living on the ISS, or if I was a satellite. Where a tinfoil hat would be useful in such a situation (well, OK a lead foil one for my 'nads.)
  • by SysKoll (48967) on Thursday September 08, 2005 @05:37PM (#13513345)
    The last solar maximum was in 2001, and the next one is in 2013. However, that doesn't mean solar activity is perfectly regular and predictable. There is a very nice article showing that the sun actually contracts and dilates with a period that is still not well known. []

    We also know that the 17th century observations of the sun showed very few spots, whereas today spots are quite numerous. That's another variability.

    Finally, several scientific papers suggest that solar activity variations have a major effect on the climate, much higher than was previously thought. There is a 208-year cycle that generated drought in South America during recent history, and these solar-forced droughts killed the Maya empire among other victims.

    References: "A Variable Sun and the Maya Collapse", Kerr, Science, Vol 292, Issue 5520, 1293 , 18 May 2001 [] and Solar Forcing of Drought Frequency in the Maya Lowlands, Hodell, Science, Vol 292, Issue 5520, 1367-1370 , 18 May 2001. []

    So the sun most probably holds the key to long-term climate changes. We need more studies, because obviously, after a few decades of space observations, we don't know enough about cycles that last centuries.

  • ... but I gotta crank up those 3CX800A7's in order to overcome the flare.

  • Suppose that someone was going to be flying in the next few days. How will this effect the slightly elevated radiation dosage that one would normally receive while flying for several hours at 30,000 feet?
  • Huummmm, right now I'm seeing strange rays and light effects coming from the sun and #1th1~~7 could ~$#~ [ mea). Isn't t@|e nice?
  • Some HAMs are reporting excellent signal propogation and some awesome DX contacts...
  • The current space weather []with x-ray data and forecast. I haven't looked at SOHO [] images yet, so I can't say whether the CME is Earth-directed or not, or even if there is one.

  • I thought that this was caused by Slashdot's pending conversion to CSS and ongoing testing. Just goes to show what I know.
  • This is an obvious result of global warming. Fucking Kyoto-snubbing Bush.
  • Seriously curious, isn't most of the stuff that causes trouble EM in nature, and if they are how come it takes a week longer than the light that made the image? Isn't this stuff travelling at the same speed?