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back to article 'Extreme' solar storm speeding straight towards Earth

On Thursday at 5:53pm in London – 12:53pm in New York – the sun let loose with a hefty solar flare, resulting in a coronal mass ejection (CME) headed straight towards Earth that will likely arrive on Saturday at 10:20 UT, give or take about seven hours. The flare was big, though not ginormous. As reported by SpaceWeather.com, …

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Anonymous Coward

"We're all doomed!"

Sounds like a good time to set up a stall in Camden Market selling magic crystals and hemp-based trinkets to help strengthen your amber aura and ward off the negative effects of the solar flare, such as bad luck and downturns in your love life, and amplify the positive solar energies that maintain a healthy well being, protect you from the evil eye and prevent tooth cavities.

If all goes to plan, I'll have retired to Malibu by Sunday.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "We're all doomed!" but...........

Well, when we didn't know about this phenomenon it must still have been happening from the days to early man to the present and we are still here.

Now scientists have discovered it Doom Sayers come out of the woodwork and keep telling us WATCH OUT its on it's way and yet..... We are still here. Scientists tell us that it will disrupt stuff, yet aircraft are not cancelled, electrical systems are not wrapped in lead to protect them. In fact we just carry on as normal.

Methinks it is a way for a certain section of the scientific community to justify there existence and pay packets. I would be more worried about the stray meteor we haven't detected yet that a bit of solar wind from the sun.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "We're all doomed!" but...........

not too many IT and telecoms systems to go down through earlier history though.

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Joke

Re: "We're all doomed!"

Do they allow flares in Camden this week?

I think you're probably safe.

If the sun let loose a massive case of nappy pants or what ever it is the yoof of today wear you'd probably be in more trouble.

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Headmaster

Re: "We're all doomed!" but...........

Re: "We're all doomed!" but...........

not too many IT and telecoms systems to go down through earlier history though.

Yes but not being able to access you email for an hour or accessing your Facebook page is neither here or there. We survived without computers and IT for thousands of years.

Now we have it, it has made us soft.

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Re: "We're all doomed!"

Are there any stalls in Camden Market that aren't selling magic crystals and hemp-based trinkets?

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Boffin

Re: "We're all doomed!" but...........

"Scientists tell us that it will disrupt stuff, yet aircraft are not cancelled, electrical systems are not wrapped in lead to protect them. In fact we just carry on as normal."

Aircraft are re-routed in northern latitudes in response to solar activity:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2091586/Solar-radiation-storm-Flights-diverted-Earths-atmosphere-pummeled.html

(I picked the Daily Fail as the example as I your post suggests that you are a good fit for its readership demographic).

Satellites can be seriously affected by solar flares, and operators do put them in to different operating modes when there is a significant risk of damage. List of effects of the 2003 flare here:

http://sat-nd.com/failures/index.html?http://sat-nd.com/failures/timeline.html

Electrical grids are also affected by geomagnetic storms induced by solar flares. Again grid operators do take precautions to minimise disruption and damage, though most of the large grids were designed long before the risks were known about, and it would take massive investment to re-engineer them to be completely resilient:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_1989_geomagnetic_storm

Are you auditioning for the part of the granny in that atrocious BT ad from many years ago? You know, the one where she has a bad phone line, it cuts to an army of engineers laying new cables and generally upgrading stuff, then next day she says "It just got better overnight all by itself".*

* Bad example I know, since many of us are still using the wet string installed decades ago.

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Re: "We're all doomed!" but...........

Yes but not being able to access you email for an hour or accessing your Facebook page is neither here or there. We survived without computers and IT for thousands of years.

Yes and then we started to rely on computers and IT. Which only serves to make us more vulnerable, given that almost everything we do is supported by IT now. None of us would be able to access our bank accounts if everything went down (probability: Stupidly low).

The point is, the CME itself doesn't pose us much risk, but the interaction with stuff we rely on might. I'm inclined more towards sitting and waiting to see what happens though to be honest, certainly not expecting a doomsday event to actually happen!

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Trollface

Dismissing the doomsayers...

They do have their day once in a while you know...

-the Dinosaurs

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Re: "We're all doomed!"

I thought flares were pretty normal in Camden?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Are there any other stalls...

"Are there any stalls in Camden Market that aren't selling magic crystals and hemp-based trinkets?"

Yes, the ones selling 'genuine' Dr Martins for £5 more than a pair of Dr Martens from a shop...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "We survived without computers for thousands of years"

And anaesthetic!

No! No Novocain. It dulls the senses.

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Re: "We're all doomed!"

Presumaby your "hemp based trinkets" include a bong!

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Re: "We're all doomed!" but...........

"We survived without computers and IT for thousands of years."

And for thousands of years we bred with our neighbours for we barely moved beyond the confines of a day's walk. We were overrun by those who took the initiative to conquer, be it Romans or Vikings or Emogoths or WhatTheHell. Their conquering was usually quite effective as getting notice around could sometimes take longer than the battle itself.

Oh, and we'd be lucky to reach our 40s, many would die as babies, hygiene was appalling, food was terrible, and unless you came from an important family you were probably somebody else's bitch, where it was a lord, a bishop, some rich fart, or the latest in a series of invasions.

Really, we have it easy these days. It's more than just computers and IT, it is everything all together. Crack open a history book and see what a cesspit the Middle Ages were. You want us to go back to that if our complicated electronic infrastructure gets fried? Believe me, if society breaks down, it want be a reversion to some hippy-happy-huggy farming way of life nicked from the Amish, It'll be like Mad Max, only worse.

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Unhappy

Re: Methinks it is a way for a certain section of the scientific community ...

OMG - Srsly? And you read tech news sites? I'ma gonna lie down now, blood pressure hurts.

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Re: "We're all doomed!" but...........

"Believe me, if society breaks down, it want be a reversion to some hippy-happy-huggy farming way of life nicked from the Amish, It'll be like Mad Max, only worse."

I think I better start stockpiling fuel, get a collection of leather jackets, pants and feathers together..... And somebody do something about Tina Turner before it gets to out of hand !!

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Anonymous Coward

Danger to people?

I have very little knowledge of this kind of stuff but I do know my family is flying trans-atlantic at that point.

Is there any risk to people flying at 40,000ft due to things like this? What about the International Space Station?

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Joke

Re: Danger to people?

I wouldn't be too concerned.

At 40,000 feet there is very little danger of hitting the International Space Station unless they happen to be on one of their infrequent trips down into the atmosphere to replenish their air supply.

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Re: Danger to people?

No, there's no danger at all. The planet's magnetosphere deflects most of the CME around the planet. Even the ISS is still inside that protective barrier so at most they'll see a slight increase in solar radiation.

Those of us on the ground or at the relatively piddling height of 40,000 feet won't see any difference at all, unless you happen to look up and see the pretty colours as the atmosphere gets all excited about it.

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Joke

Re: Danger to people?

With any flight, you are exposed to more radiation than you are at ground level.. just this time it comes with pretty lights.

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Trollface

Re: Danger to people?

You're ruining the fun. I was going to suggest looking for a radioactive spider on the flight.

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Thumb Up

Re: Danger to people?

You sir, owe me a new keyboard. Laugh out-loud in the most literal sense - literally

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Mushroom

X28 missed us mostly

The X28 Flare could have been a serious event but it was mostly facing away from earth. It is thought a large flare is most dangerous when it is a series of flares. The first earth directed flare opens a magnetic or plasma channel to earth which allows the second major flare to reach earth far more quickly then without a preceding event. All it should take is reading about the Carrington Event to get a person slightly worried that our modern society could have some issues.

http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/hotshots/2003_11_04/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_storm_of_1859

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Anonymous Coward

Re: X28 missed us mostly

You're absolutely right. The x28 was not pointed at us. And everyone thinking this is superstitious paranoia needs to do some research on the matter other than the poor science written in this article. In 1859, a solar flare hit the earth and wiped out the telegraph system across the atlantic. Apparently it was so strong that the transmission lines caught on fire and operators were electrocuted. Now imagine that sort of electrical damage in a world where you can't even put food on the table without an entire nations electrical infrastructure to provide it for you. This may not kill you directly, but when there's no food or fuel production, we're all in deep donkey dung.

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Unhappy

Re: X28 missed us mostly

A series of flares from space? Last time that happened Jeff Wayne and the Martians invaded didn't they?

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Mushroom

Re: X28 missed us mostly

They say the chances are a million to one.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: X28 missed us mostly

But one in a million chances happen nine times out of ten...

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Big Brother

Re: X28 missed us mostly

> They say the chances are a million to one.

Ogilvy, the astronomer, says that.

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Re: X28 missed us mostly

No one was "electrocuted" by the "Carrington event," though telegraph operators could feel their apparatus getting warmer. In similar instances even earlier in the history of the telegraph, operators were able to disconnect their batteries and continue communicating because of the geomagnetically induced currents from space weather events.

The first (1858) transatlantic telegraph cable was destroyed when its operators applied too high a voltage across it in an attempt to speed transmissions, three weeks after the cable was first used. No space weather involved. The next transatlantic cable wasn't successfully laid until 1866, so once again, no space weather effects om a transatlantic cable in 1859.

And please get your science straight (advice to the Reg, too): the only effects solar flares have on the earth is ionizing radiation (EUV and X-ray) changing the ionization in the upper layers of the atmosphere. Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and electrically charged, energetic particles cause the serious effects (geomagnetically induced currents, energetic particle buildup between the normal Van Allen belt altitudes that can damage geosynchronous spacecraft, &c.) as well as the pretty ones (aurorae). There are lots of flares, even some X flares, without CMEs, though almost every fast CME capable of palpable effects at the earth is associated with a bright flare.

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Re: the chances are a million to one, they say...

but still, they come..... {guitar riff} :) :)

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Angel

Spent ages trying to figure out why I couldn't find this X28 flare you list as 11th April 2003.... finally realised that El Reg has got the day and month the wrong way around - despite the fact it says day/month/year on the site they took the information from...... here is the data from the 4th November 2003 :) http://www.n3kl.org/sun/noaa_archive/2003/Nov_4/

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Coat

Nope, still can't find this X28 flare, even If I reverse the day and month like you said... you SURE it's on the 2003th April, year 11?

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Oh to be

Intelligent like the americans and hide the day between the month and year, such a logical language.

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Anonymous Coward

UT?

'will likely arrive on Saturday at 10:20 UT'

UT? Is that anything like GMT?

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Trollface

Re: UT?

I'll be shopping at Tesco, hope the tills don't go down because the queues will be impossible.

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Meh

Unexpected item in bagging area

But would you notice the different if you used self-service tills?

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Re: UT?

Sort of, but not quite:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Time

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Anonymous Coward

Re: UT?

Actually if the tills do go down in Tesco then the queues will be the smallest ever.

Instead of adding it all up, they simply ask you what you think your trolley is worth, and as long as you're not clearly wide of the mark then that's what they ask you to pay (i.e. you can't stick a plasma TV in the trolley along with your veggies and claim the whole lot is tenner)

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Re: UT?

When there was a power cut at the local Asda a few years ago, they searched your trolly for hidden alcohol, then estimate what the trolly is worth... Was £20 for £60+ of shopping.

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wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_Time

Very interesting....

....but exactly what time GMT should I put my tin-foil hat on?

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Silver badge

A pulse that disturbed radio comunication?

That's O2's excuse wrapped up...

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"we're talking to you, Thule"

Errr, isn't it daylight for 24 hrs at the moment?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "we're talking to you, Thule"

somewhat longer than 24 hours

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Unhappy

Aurora alerts always coincide with heavy clouds

Sadly.

I would have liked to have seen some of the fireworks on the sun in my little H-alpha scope when the flare went off, but alas, cloudy again.

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On Thursday at 5:53pm in London – 12:53pm in New York – the sun let loose with a hefty solar flare

what was th sun doing in london? busking?

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Coat

What was the sun doing in London?

Using a phone box to dial into celebrity voicemail accounts........

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Coat

Stay tuned!

How do we do that if the Assault From The Sun blacks out our radio-based telecomms?

Semaphor?

(The one with the cute little flags in the pocket, please?...Thank you)

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WTF?

Why does it take so long to get here?

I thought the sun was a mere 8 minutes away (at the speed of light, obvs)

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Boffin

Re: Why does it take so long to get here?

Because the CME is not made up from particles that travel at the speed of light, it's a lot of protons essentially. These are a lot slower than light speed, hence the much longer transit time.

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Coat

Re: Why does it take so long to get here?

Like most villains* it likes to take its time, giving you ample time to prepare for its nefarious schemes.

*I'm a ginger, it burns me all the time so it's a villain to me, ok?

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