back to article NASA gets red-hot shots of Sun in action as IRIS goes online

NASA's latest solar observatory is online and sending back pictures of the Sun's inner atmosphere that could help answer some of the essential questions about our closest star and its effects on Earth. iris IRIS opens up "My teachers at the University of Chicago instilled in me a real wonder at the mystery of the Sun," said …

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But is it enough?

It sounds like a hell of an improvement on their last bit of kit but is it fast enough to track those objects well enough to five early warning of serious trouble?

Note with NASA budgets being savaged this is a good piece of news for science types.

Thumbs up all round.

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24 Hours ?

It might not be foolproof, but 24 hours notice allows you enough time to, for example, ground all aircraft and would certainly allow enough time for almost all equipment to be disconnected from the mains. That's about the best you can do in circumstances like that.

Chris Cosgrove

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Mushroom

These sun events are under constant scrutiny (see http://www.spaceweather.com/).

From Wikipedia:

"Coronal mass ejections reach velocities between 20km/s to 3200km/s with an average speed of 489km/s..."

149,669,180 km / 3200km = 46772 sec = 13 hours

So if old Sol performs another big gusty one in our general direction, there should be at least a few hours to properly panic. I look forward to hearing some portentous news anchor strongly advising me to turn him OFF, and also unplug the set please. Yeeeesss!

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Alien

Yeah the SWPC at NOAA is always watching, as is the Air Force, and damage from a bad Solar Event is finally something that FEMA and the like are applying what they know about Nuclear Weapons EMP effects to train for and mitigate against, but its always to be welcomed having more sensors watching the giant fusion reactor at the middle of the solar system.

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Anonymous Coward

" its always to be welcomed having more sensors watching the giant fusion reactor at the middle of the solar system."

Absolutely - especially as some people seem to want to remove nuclear power altogether and replace it with "renewables" such as solar.

Something doesn't quite compute there .....

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Facepalm

Re: AC on Unclear power

Sun = fusion

N-plant = fission

There's a difference.

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Re: AC on Unclear power

Yeah but it's all "nook-lear"

Nook-Lear: Ebook version of Shakespeares King Lear.

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Ever since I was military and dependent upon good satellite communications, I have been on space weather mailing lists and especially solar/geomagnetic storm warning lists.

I'll know long before that news presenter's staff figures out what that warning actually means.

Hence, my mains will be disconnected and all equipment also properly disconnected and the cords either removed or stowed in a manner to not reinforce electromagnetic pulses from a major geomagnetic storm.

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I've been on the SWPC mailing list since its inception. :D

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Re: There's a difference.

Sure there is. The freaks who fear fission will be ten times as scared on fusion.

'Cause that's 10 times more dangerous ya know. /end sarc

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Ye man -

let's have a closer look at our very own star in a jar.

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And when El Reg says "welcome back to the Victorian era" they mean....

The early Victorian era, before the telegraph and a modicum of electrical tranmission. They might have said "The Georgian era", but that could have been politically problematic for those of us in the U.S. readership. Likewise, they could have said "the Regency", but that might have invoked questions about how a hotel got somehow involved and whether our reservations would be correct.....

So thank you NASA for keeping an eye on our mercurial solar mistress, especially since those of us in IT/tech spend so much time in offices/datacenters/coding bullpens that our usual reaction to the sun is "Arrrggghhh! Angry yellow sky-fire burns!!!"

P.S.--Would Superman become particularly bad-ass during a coronal mass ejection? Important question there.

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Headmaster

My English has gone to pot, but...

- "It's the star for which everything that happens here on Earth depends on"

I've been away from England the better part of 20 years, but something doesn't seem right with this sentence...

Does anyone think this is more grammatical?

- "It's the star on which everything that happens here on Earth depends"

Living in Japan does strange things to one's Engrish.

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Headmaster

Re: My English has gone to pot, but...

Also, I don't think that the Sun should get the blame for bad grammar just because it happened on Earth.

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Anonymous Coward

RE. Re. AC on Unclear power

I genuinely do feel sorry for the solar energy adopters who will shortly find out that their $60,000 array is just as vulnerable to CME induced power surges as the power grid.

Plus for added points, the majority of grid tied systems won't work without mains so even if their solar setup weathers the storm intact they will need to wait until the mains comes back up before they can do anything.

Did figure out a workaround using a rewound microwave oven transformer though, essentially its a miniature inverter in a can powered from a 12V car battery that generates approx 110 or 240V depending on which side of the pond you are on.

The high voltage side on these is normally what breaks so a simple bit of Dremelling and hammer work to get the winding out and some ordinary Litz wire made from 22 gauge and a drill can be made to wind the new primary.

Please note, for safety the outgoing grid connection MUST be disconnected or you could end up electrocuting the poor linesmen doing the repair when 240V feeds back into the normally off wires.

Parts needed:- 2 IGBT bricks or a bank of 2N3055's, a microcontroller or just a plain old phase shift 50/60Hz oscillator made from a 2N3904 and a few other bits.

This can even be made using good old fashioned valves if you have some that can withstand 500mA anode current on their own or as a bank.

AC/DC 6EQUJ5

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Re: RE. Re. AC on Unclear power

I genuinely do feel sorry for the solar energy adopters who will shortly find out that their $60,000 array is just as vulnerable to CME induced power surges as the power grid.

Don't feel sorry for me, my panels are insured along with the rest of my house. (p.s. they only cost a small fraction of $60,000)

Plus for added points, the majority of grid tied systems won't work without mains so even if their solar setup weathers the storm intact they will need to wait until the mains comes back up before they can do anything.

So I'm no worse off than those without panels? That's not a problem.

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Re: RE. Re. AC on Unclear power

"I genuinely do feel sorry for the solar energy adopters who will shortly find out that their $60,000 array is just as vulnerable to CME induced power surges as the power grid."

Interesting! So, those short little panels will have induced currents that are the same as miles of power lines?

Didn't think so.

It all depends on the strength of the GM storm, the period of spikes and even the home wiring, assuming the transfer switch is thrown to off mains mode when the storm strikes.

"Plus for added points, the majority of grid tied systems won't work without mains so even if their solar setup weathers the storm intact they will need to wait until the mains comes back up before they can do anything."

Every system I've reviewed had full offline capability. It wouldn't do to be capable of generating power, but in the dark with the neighbors when some idiot workman fouled the power lines for the neighborhood. If nothing else, it'd be lousy for sales.

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Anonymous Coward

RE. RE. Re. AC on Unclear power

The latest analysis of a possible Carrington level event is that it could cause a major problem to solar installations by inducing ground currents in nearby power lines.

If the energy builds up too much then when they arc over the resulting mini EMPs could propagate down the lines like a lightning bolt and fry anything connected to them.

There will be attenuation due to the low side transformers BUT if the inverter connected to the solar panels gets fried then you might well have power on the solar side but nothing else.

Guess what, household items like fridge freezers DO NOT work on DC power.

Also relevant, solar cells do not like EMPs, mini or otherwise.

Lightning is a single short pulse and the onboard protection can survive that but not multiple events over several hours slowly degrading the protection until it fails.

I did the calculations for this and based on the analysis from 1859 most of North America will be in the dark.

Even some unconnected sensitive equipment like radio and TV receivers could be damaged as their front ends would suddenly see repetitive kV/m spikes that would overwhelm the lightning protection.

Just for "extra fun stuff" the resulting massive downpours and storms caused by the solar radiation interacting with the atmosphere could result in serious problems.

AC/DC 6EQUJ5

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Re: "The latest analysis of a possible Carrington level event ..."

Thank you for an interesting post.

I think I would need a checklist of things to do to prepare for a major EMP event. Looks like unplugging absolutely everything would be a Step 1. But would that be enough ?

I have all my household electronics on lightning mitigators, but that is visibly not enough for that kind of event. Thanks for the heads-up ! Now I'm off to scour the 'Net and find out what really needs to be done.

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Alert

All this talk of solar panels panels and sophisticated electronics is all very well, but...

...please can someone answer the most important question, which is: am I safer wearing my tinfoil hat, or taking it off?

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Anonymous Coward

Re. tinfoil hat

Won't make any difference, wrapping your electronics in plastic then foil would though.

Has to be a continuous layer though with no connection to the foil to the device or the protection fails.

Also relevant, ESD proof bags are NOT enough, tested this using MW oven and the device didn't survive even a second of exposure, even the bag looked OK.

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