Thursday, September 5, 2013

A one-two punch from the Sun in 1859

The impact of space weather was dramatically demonstrated approximately a century before the United States launched their first satellite into space when awe-inspiring auroral displays were seen over nearly the entire world on the night of Aug. 28-29, 1859. In New York City, thousands watched “the heavens . . . arrayed in a drapery more gorgeous than they have been for years.” The aurora witnessed that Sunday night, the NewYork Times told its readers, “ will be referred to hereafter among the events which occur but once or twice in a lifetime.” Even more spectacular displays occurred on Sept. 2. For residents of Havana, Cuba, the sky that night “appeared stained with blood and in a state of general conflagration.” Earth had experienced a one-two punch from the Sun, the likes of which have not been recorded since. From Aug. 28 through Sept. 4, auroral displays of remarkable brilliance, color, and duration were observed around the world, as far south as Central America in the Northern Hemisphere and as far north as Santiago, Chile, in the Southern Hemisphere.

Even after daybreak, when the auroras were no longer visible, disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field were so powerful that ground-level magnetic field monitoring sensors were driven off scale. Telegraph networks in many locations experienced major disruptions and outages. In several regions, operators disconnected their systems from the batteries and sent messages using only the current induced by the aurora. In fact, telegraphs were completely unusable for nearly eight hours in most places around the world.

Humanity was just beginning to develop a dependence on high-tech systems in 1859. The telegraph was the technological wonder of the day. There were no high-power electrical lines crisscrossing the continents or sensitive satellites orbiting Earth, both of which are vulnerable to events of the sort that disrupted telegraph systems in the 19th century. There certainly was not yet a dependence on instantaneous communication and satellite remote imaging of Earth’s surface. Now, in the early part of the 21st century, as the Sun is ramping up its activity in solar cycle 24, decision makers are asking: Has there been adequate preparation for severe space weather events, and what might be the consequences of worst-case events like that of the storm of 1859?

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Video: Space station crew says goodbye to Japan cargo ship

International Space Station (ISS) astronaut Karen Nyberg of NASA used the Canadarm2 robotic arm to release the Japanese HTV-4 cargo ship on Wednesday, after its month stay at the orbital outpost.

The cargo craft, dubbed "Kounotori" --- the Japanese word for "white stork" --- by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, arrived at the ISS Aug. 9 filled with more than three tons of supplies and spare parts for the crew. It will be commanded to deorbit on Saturday, headed for a destructive entry into the Pacific Ocean.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Beechcraft Baron, eye in the sky for ISR missions

Military and law enforcement agencies across the globe will find the mission persistence of the Beechcraft Baron ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) to be efficient and effective.

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NASA aircraft in Houston skies for air pollution study this month

Two NASA aircraft equipped with scientific instruments will fly over the Houston area throughout September as part of a multi-year airborne science mission to help scientists better understand how to measure and forecast air quality from space.

The aircraft are part of NASA's five-year DISCOVER-AQ study, which stands for Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality.

One of the aircraft, a twin-engine Beechcraft 200 King Air (registration N529NA), will collect data for the DISCOVER-AQ study looking downward from an altitude of 26,000 feet. The plane's instruments will look down at the Earth's surface, much like a satellite, and measure particulate and gaseous air pollution.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

DCNewsroom most popular posts August 2013

1.) Sequestration: Florida-based company offers alternative to military flyovers - As sequestration continues to affect the U.S. military's ability to perform at air shows and participate in flyovers, the civilian-owned Black Diamond Jet Team is stepping in as an alternative for professional and college-level sports teams, as well as other organizations looking to book a flyover for an upcoming event. [Full post]

2.) NASA plans to remove engines on Shuttle Carrier Aircraft - NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center launched a project last month to remove the engines from the two retired Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft so they can be used on the agency's astronomy research aircraft SOFIA. [Full post]

3.) F-16C Falcon jets collide near Chincoteague, Va. - The U.S. Coast Guard rescued an Air National Guard pilot last month after his F-16 jet went down approximately 35 miles southeast of Chincoteague, Va. [Full post]

4.) Watch for the Perseid meteor shower this weekend – Observers worldwide enjoyed a summer evening of sky watching last month as the annual Perseid meteor shower peaked on the morning of Aug. 12. [Full post]

5.) NTSB releases preliminary data from UPS 1354 crash - National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member Robert Sumwalt held a series of press briefings last month following the crash of UPS flight 1354 in Birmingham, Ala. [Full post]

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