If you’re like me, you started your day with a glance at the weather, and maybe a few choice words for the Sun and the summer heat it is bringing many of us far too early in the year. While your standard weather forecast is going to let you know about terrestrial conditions, like wind, rain, temperature, and humidity, there is another kind of weather that we’re going to need to pay attention to for the next several years: The Space Weather Report.
Our Sun has an eleven-year activity cycle, during which it transforms from a placid ball of spotless plasma to a messy tangle of magnetic fields and sunspots. When those tangled field lines snap, they can release magnificent amounts of energy as flares – including high-speed particles – in our direction. These flares can trigger everything from harmlessly beautiful aurorae to power grid failures. In between these extremes are communications blackouts during which normal radio and shortwave communications is impossible due to interference from the Sun.
On May 10 – the day before we recorded this episode – the Sun let loose an X1-class flare directly at the Earth. Space weather forecasters at NOAA have predicted high-frequency radio blackouts for most of the Atlantic ocean and western parts of Europe and North Africa. The region of the solar activity responsible for this spot may release additional flares. Some folks have already seen fantastic aurorae, and if you are one of them and you happened to get a good image, please share it with us on Twitter by tagging @cosmoquestx.
If you want to keep up to date on the latest space weather forecasts, NOAA has you covered at swpc.noaa.gov. We’ll have that link in our show notes at DailySpace.org.