Conventional lines of communication can be impacted after a disaster. This we know. Phone lines can go down, cell service can be overrun with calls, texts, and emails and it can be difficult for survivors as well as first responders to get in touch. This isn’t a far-fetched scenario or intellectual exercise. It’s a reality we’ve seen happen over and over during disasters small and large.
Enter Amateur Radio—or what those involved in the hobby refer to as “ham radio.”
NASA Warns: Possible Infrastructure Disruptions From Solar Flare
NASA models using data from the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) have now provided more information about the two CMEs associated with the two March 6 flares. The first is traveling faster than 1300 miles per second; the second more than 1100 miles per second. NASA’s models predict that the CMEs will impact both Earth and Mars, as well as pass by several NASA spacecraft – Messenger, Spitzer, and STEREO-B. The models also predict that the leading edge of the first CME will reach Earth at about 1:25 AM EST on the morning of March 8 (plus or minus 7 hours). Such a CME could result in a severe geomagnetic storm, causing aurora at low latitudes, with possible disruption to high frequency radio communication, global positioning systems (GPS), and power grids.
The sun erupted with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle on March 6, 2012 at 7PM EST. This flare was categorized as an X5.4, making it the second largest flare — after an X6.9 on August 9, 2011 — since the sun’s activity segued into a period of relatively low activity called solar minimum in early 2007. The current increase in the number of X-class flares is part of the sun’s normal 11-year solar cycle, during which activity on the sun ramps up to solar maximum, which is expected to peak in late 2013.
About an hour later, at 8:14 PM ET, March 6, the same region let loose an X1.3 class flare. An X1 is 5 times smaller than an X5 flare.
These X-class flares erupted from an active region named AR 1429 that rotated into view on March 2. Prior to this, the region had already produced numerous M-class and one X-class flare. The region continues to rotate across the front of the sun, so the March 6 flare was more Earthward facing than the previous ones. It triggered a temporary radio blackout on the sunlit side of Earth that interfered with radio navigation and short wave radio.
In association with these flares, the sun also expelled two significant coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which are travelling faster than 600 miles a second and may arrive at Earth in the next few days. In the meantime, the CME associated with the X-class flare from March 4 has dumped solar particles and magnetic fields into Earth’s atmosphere and distorted Earth’s magnetic fields, causing a moderate geomagnetic storm, rated a G2 on a scale from G1 to G5. Such storms happen when the magnetic fields around Earth rapidly change strength and shape. A moderate storm usually causes aurora and may interfere with high frequency radio transmission near the poles. This storm is already dwindling, but the Earth may experience another enhancement if the most recent CMEs are directed toward and impact Earth.
In addition, last night’s flares have sent solar particles into Earth’s atmosphere, producing a moderate solar energetic particle event, also called a solar radiation storm. These particles have been detected by NASA’s SOHO and STEREO spacecraft, and NOAA’s GOES spacecraft. At the time of writing, this storm is rated an S3 on a scale that goes up to S5. Such storms can interfere with high frequency radio communication.
Besides the August 2011 X-class flare, the last time the sun sent out flares of this magnitude was in 2006. There was an X6.5 on December 6, 2006 and an X9.0 on December 5, 2006. Like the most recent events, those two flares erupted from the same region on the sun, which is a common occurrence.
NANOSAIL-D EJECTS: NASA SEEKS AMATEUR RADIO OPERATORS’ AID TO LISTEN FOR BEACON SIGNAL
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 11:30 a.m. EST, engineers at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., confirmed that the NanoSail-D nanosatellite ejected from Fast Affordable Scientific and Technology Satellite, FASTSAT. The ejection event occurred spontaneously and was identified this morning when engineers at the center analyzed onboard FASTSAT telemetry. The ejection of NanoSail-D also has been confirmed by ground-based satellite tracking assets.
Dec. 24, 1968: Christmas Eve Greetings From Lunar Orbit
1968: The crew of Apollo 8 delivers a live, televised Christmas Eve broadcast after becoming the first humans to orbit another space body.
Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William Anders made their now-celebrated broadcast after entering lunar orbit on Christmas Eve, which might help explain the heavy religious content of the message. After announcing the arrival of lunar sunrise, each astronaut read from the Book of Genesis.
How this went down at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the Soviet Union is unknown, but it stands in stark contrast to the alleged message sent back to Earth several years earlier by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.
DENVER — Already cornering the market for brief up-and-down joyrides for space tourists, Virgin Galactic announced Thursday it has an agreement to sell seats on two lifting body spaceships proposed under NASA’s commercial crew development initiative.
Both spacecraft are being designed to rotate government astronauts to and from the International Space Station, but they could serve other markets in low Earth orbit.
Virgin Galactic, founded by wealthy businessman Richard Branson, is supporting spacecraft proposals by Orbital Sciences Corp. and Sierra Nevada Corp., the company said Thursday in a press release.
For all you that wonder what it is like for the astronauts to work ground stations during a general pass. Col. Wheelock gives you a personal video tour of the ISS ham radio station while he answers calls from operators on the ground.
NASA Sets Shuttle Discovery’s Launch For No Earlier Than Dec. 17
WASHINGTON — NASA managers have targeted space shuttle Discovery’s launch for no earlier than Dec. 17. Shuttle managers determined more tests and analysis are needed before proceeding with the STS-133 mission.
1st Communication Satellite: A Giant Space Balloon 50 Years Ago
People on Earth may take for granted today’s high-tech world of cell phones, GPS and the satellites high above the planet that make instantaneous communication possible. But it all began 50 years ago with one giant space balloon.
Echo 1, the world’s first communications satellite capable of relaying signals to other points on Earth, soared 1,000 miles (1,609 km) above the planet after its Aug. 12, 1960 launch, yet relied on humanity’s oldest flight technology — ballooning.
Intelsat’s new satelliteA radiation-proof Cisco router was sent into space today aboard an Intelsat satellite with the goal to set up military communications from space.
The router/satellite combo are a key part of the US Department of Defense’s Internet Routing In Space (IRIS) project, which aims to route IP voice, video and data traffic between satellites in space in much the same way packets are moved on the ground, reducing delays, saving on capacity and offering greater network flexibility, Cisco stated.
The mission management team will meet at 3 p.m. EDT today to give the “go- no go” for fueling Discovery. Weather for tanking and launch is currently at 70 percent acceptable for a 1:10 a.m. Wednesday morning launch.
Tanking coverage of Discovery will begin at 3:30 p.m. and launch commentary at 8 p.m. on NASA TV.