G2-Class Geomagnetic Storm Watch

NOAA has upgraded their watch for geomagnetic storms on Oct. 7-8 from G1 (minor) to G2 (moderately strong). This is in response to a stream of solar wind approaching Earth from a large hole in the Sun’s atmosphere, described below.

Arctic auroras are almost certain to appear when the gaseous material arrives, and the light show could descend to northern-tier US States such as Maine, Michigan, and Washington.

Coronal Canyon Faces Earth: A large canyon-shaped hole has opened in the Sun’s atmosphere, and it is directly facing Earth. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory took this false-color ultraviolet image of the structure on Oct. 5th.

This is a coronal hole–a place in the Sun’s atmosphere where magnetic fields open up and allow solar wind to escape. Coronal holes are common, but this one is unusually large. It stretches more than 900,000 km from the Sun’s north polar crown across the equator into the Sun’s southern hemisphere. Now that’s a grand canyon.

The emerging stream of solar wind will reach Earth on Oct. 7th bringing a 75% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms, possibly intensifying to G2-class on Oct. 8th according to NOAA. Such storms can affect migratory animals that use magnetic cues for navigation and spark auroras visible in the USA as far south as a line from Maine to Washington.

New Extremely Distant Solar System Object Found During Hunt For Planet X

Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard and his colleagues — Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo, and the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen — are once again redefining our Solar System’s edge. They discovered a new extremely distant object far beyond Pluto with an orbit that supports the presence of an even-farther-out, Super-Earth or larger Planet X.

The newly found object, called 2015 TG387, will be announced Tuesday by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. A paper with the full details of the discovery has also been submitted to the Astronomical Journal.

2015 TG387 was discovered about 80 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, a measurement defined as the distance between Earth and the Sun. For context, Pluto is around 34 AU, so 2015 TG387 is about two and a half times further away from the Sun than Pluto is right now.

The new object is on a very elongated orbit and never comes closer to the Sun, a point called perihelion, than about 65 AU. Only 2012 VP113 and Sedna at 80 and 76 AU respectively have more-distant perihelia than 2015 TG387. Though 2015 TG387 has the third-most-distant perihelion, its orbital semi-major axis is larger than 2012 VP113 and Sedna’s, meaning it travels much farther from the Sun than they do. At its furthest point, it reaches all the way out to about 2,300 AU. 2015 TG387 is one of the few known objects that never comes close enough to the Solar System’s giant planets, like Neptune and Jupiter, to have significant gravitational interactions with them.

“These so-called Inner Oort Cloud objects like 2015 TG387, 2012 VP113, and Sedna are isolated from most of the Solar System’s known mass, which makes them immensely interesting,” Sheppard explained. “They can be used as probes to understand what is happening at the edge of our Solar System.”

The object with the most-distant orbit at perihelion, 2012 VP113, was also discovered by Sheppard and Trujillo, who announced that find in 2014. The discovery of 2012 VP113 led Sheppard and Trujillo to notice similarities of the orbits of several extremely distant Solar System objects, and they proposed the presence of an unknown planet several times larger than Earth — sometimes called Planet X or Planet 9 — orbiting the Sun well beyond Pluto at hundreds of AUs.

“We think there could be thousands of small bodies like 2015 TG387 out on the Solar System’s fringes, but their distance makes finding them very difficult,” Tholen said. “Currently we would only detect 2015 TG387 when it is near its closest approach to the Sun. For some 99 percent of its 40,000-year orbit, it would be too faint to see.”

The object was discovered as part of the team’s ongoing hunt for unknown dwarf planets and Planet X. It is the largest and deepest survey ever conducted for distant Solar System objects.

“These distant objects are like breadcrumbs leading us to Planet X. The more of them we can find, the better we can understand the outer Solar System and the possible planet that we think is shaping their orbits — a discovery that would redefine our knowledge of the Solar System’s evolution,” Sheppard added.

It took the team a few years of observations to obtain a good orbit for 2015 TG387 because it moves so slowly and has such a long orbital period. They first observed 2015 TG387 in October of 2015 at the Japanese Subaru 8-meter telescope located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Follow-up observations at the Magellan telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and the Discovery Channel Telescope in Arizona were obtained in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 to determine 2015 TG387’s orbit.

2015 TG387 is likely on the small end of being a dwarf planet since it has a diameter near 300 kilometers. The location in the sky where 2015 TG387 reaches perihelion is similar to 2012 VP113, Sedna, and most other known extremely distant trans-Neptunian objects, suggesting that something is pushing them into similar types of orbits.

Trujillo and University of Oklahoma’s Nathan Kaib ran computer simulations for how different hypothetical Planet X orbits would affect the orbit of 2015 TG387. The simulations included a Super-Earth-mass planet at several hundred AU on an elongated orbit as proposed by Caltech’s Konstantin Batygin and Michael Brown in 2016. Most of the simulations showed that not only was 2015 TG387’s orbit stable for the age of the Solar System, but it was actually shepherded by Planet X’s gravity, which keeps the smaller 2015 TG387 away from the massive planet. This gravitational shepherding could explain why the most-distant objects in our Solar System have similar orbits. These orbits keep them from ever approaching the proposed planet too closely, which is similar to how Pluto never gets too close to Neptune even though their orbits cross.

“What makes this result really interesting is that Planet X seems to affect 2015 TG387 the same way as all the other extremely distant Solar System objects. These simulations do not prove that there’s another massive planet in our Solar System, but they are further evidence that something big could be out there” Trujillo concludes.

This research was funded by NASA Planetary Astronomy grant NNX15AF44G.

Based on data collected at Subaru Telescope, which is operated by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. These results made use of the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory. Lowell is a private, non-profit institution dedicated to astrophysical research and public appreciation of astronomy and operates the DCT in partnership with Boston University, the University of Maryland, the University of Toledo, Northern Arizona University and Yale University. These results used the Large Monolithic Imager, which was built by Lowell Observatory using funds provided by the National Science Foundation (AST-1005313). This paper includes data gathered with the 6.5 meter Magellan Telescopes located at Las Campanas Observatory, Chile.

This Car-Sized NASA Spacecraft Is Hurtling Closer To The Sun Than Any Mission Before

At the center of the Sun is a raging nuclear inferno that reaches temperatures well into the millions of degrees. The surface is cool by comparison, at 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Then up in the corona—the golden haze that can be seen around the Sun during a total eclipse—the temperature shoots into the millions again. And no one knows why.

We might be on the verge of finding out.

In little more than a month, a NASA spacecraft will come closer to the Sun than any mission before—more than three-quarters of the way there—and it is just getting started. Laden with scientific instruments, the Parker Probe will continue to circle closer and closer, finally getting within a few million miles of the Sun in 2025. If you imagine the 93 million miles from here to the Sun as a football field, the probe will make it inside the 4-yard line, the agency says. And it won’t melt—more on that below.

The goal is not just cool science. The mission is expected to reveal much about mysterious high-energy particles that periodically spew forth from the Sun at thousands of miles per second, posing a risk to satellites, the power grid, and the health of astronauts.

Among the many scientists involved in planning the mission were David J. McComas, a professor of astrophysical sciences at Princeton University, and Bill Matthaeus, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Delaware.

The puzzle of the corona—the layer of atmosphere that begins 1,300 miles above the Sun’s surface—has long been a special focus for Matthaeus. Why would the corona’s temperature reach millions of degrees—a fact we know from using instruments called spectrometers—when the Sun’s surface below is only in the thousands?

“I like to tell people: ‘What would you do if you lit your campfire or a fire in your fireplace, and as you walked toward it, it got colder?'” Matthaeus said.

His preferred theory starts with roiling, turbulent motion that occurs in the photosphere—the gaseous layer that we perceive as the yellow “surface” of the Sun. This turbulence interacts with magnetic field lines that radiate out from the Sun, plucking them almost as if they were guitar strings, he said.

The resulting waves travel outward, then are reflected back, leading to a cascade that heats the corona to fantastic temperatures—fueling another phenomenon called solar wind, according to his explanation.

Other scientists have proposed different theories. Four suites of instruments on board the Parker Probe are expected to help answer these and other questions.

Princeton’s McComas is in charge of one group of instruments that will detect electrons, protons, and other energetic particles emitted by the Sun during chaotic events such as solar flares.

The measurements will be stored on solid-state data recorders—fancy versions of flash drives—then transmitted back to Earth by antenna when the probe’s looping path takes it away from the Sun’s intense heat.

These high-energy particles are a key element of “space weather,” with the potential to disrupt satellite communications, the power grid, and even the GPS feature in a smartphone. With enough warning of such events, technicians can place satellites into safer states, McComas said.

Like Matthaeus, the Princeton physicist is burning with curiosity about the Sun’s three big mysteries: the hot corona, the solar wind, and the energetic particles. But asked which theories might explain these phenomena, he demurred.

“I’m an experimentalist,” McComas said. “I go and observe the universe for what it is.”

So how will the sophisticated instruments survive those million-degree temperatures?

The answer has to do with the difference between temperature and heat, and the fact that the Sun’s corona, though hot, is very low density, NASA says. Temperature is a measure of how fast particles are moving, while heat refers to the amount of energy that is transferred by those particles. In the Sun’s corona, particles are traveling at high speed, but there are few of them, so relatively little heat can be transferred.

Agency scientists predict that exterior of the Parker spacecraft will be heated “only” to a temperature of about 2,500 degrees.

That is still hot enough to melt many metals. So the craft is protected by a heat shield—a carbon composite foam sandwiched between two carbon plates, designed at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.

Betsy Congdon, the lead thermal engineer for the heat shield, demonstrated its effectiveness in a NASA video, heating one side with a blowtorch while a colleague calmly touched the other side with his bare hand.

With protective shield installed, the Parker Probe was launched at 3:31 a.m. on Aug. 12, carried aloft by a thundering Delta IV Heavy rocket at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

McComas and Matthaeus were among hundreds on hand for the awe-inspiring sight.

“It almost feels like an earthquake,” Matthaeus said. “The sound is just extraordinary.”

While the scientists are hopeful of getting answers to their questions, Matthaeus acknowledged that there is no certainty. Of one thing, the University of Delaware physicist has no doubt:

“We can be fairly certain that some unexpected things are going to be found out.”

New Technique To Forecast Geomagnetic Storms Developed

Here is another example of how the ‘Science Of Cycles’ is used to improve the predictability of celestial events. Earth’s magnetic field extends from pole to pole and is strongly affected by solar wind from the Sun. This “wind” is a stream of charged particles constantly ejected from the Sun’s surface. Occasional sudden flashes of brightness known as solar flares release even more particles into the wind. Sometimes, the flares are followed by coronal mass ejections that send plasma into space.

The resulting flux of charged particles travels millions of miles from the Sun to Earth. When they arrive here, the particles wreak havoc on Earth’s magnetic field. The result can be beautiful but also destructive: auroras and geomagnetic storms. The storms are serious and interfere with a number of important technologies, including GPS signaling and satellite communications. They can also cause damage to surface electrical grids. Solar activity appears random, making it difficult for us to predict these storms.

In the journal Chaos, from AIP Publishing, a group of investigators from Europe, led by Reik Donner at Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, reports a new method for analyzing magnetic field data that might provide better short-term forecasting of geomagnetic storms. This new method relies on a technique developed for systems in a state far from equilibrium. Earth’s magnetic field fits this paradigm because the field is driven far away from equilibrium by the solar wind. Systems that are far from equilibrium often undergo abrupt changes, such as the sudden transition from a quiescent state to a storm.

The investigators used hourly values of the Disturbance storm-time, or Dst, index. Dst values give the average deviation of the horizontal component of Earth’s magnetic field from its normal value. This deviation occurs when a large burst of charged particles arrives from the Sun and weakens the field generated by Earth. The Dst values form a single stream of numbers known as a time series. The time series data can then be recast into a 2D or 3D image by plotting one data point against another at a fixed amount of time into the future for forecasting.

Here, the authors created a diagram known as a recurrence plot from the reconstructed data. The recurrence plot is an array of dots typically distributed non-uniformly across the graph. The authors used their data to look at a pair of geomagnetic storms that occurred in 2001 from large solar flares a couple of days prior to the storm.

They used a method known as recurrence quantification analysis to show that long diagonal lines in these recurrence plots indicate more predictable geomagnetic behavior. The method reported here is particularly well-suited to distinguish between different types of geomagnetic field fluctuations. The technique allows researchers to characterize these differences with an accuracy not previously achieved.

Science Of Cycles Research


JUST IN: Historic Space Weather Could Clarify What’s Next

“Historic space weather may help us understand what’s coming next, according to new research by the University of Warwick.”

Actually, those of you who have followed Earth Changes TV, Earth Changes Media, and Science Of Cycles over the years, know what is mentioned in this ‘new’ research – is anything but ‘new’. Having said this, I am grateful that so many scientists around the world have come to affirm what happens in and around our solar system, does in fact have an influence on our planet Earth and those who reside on it.

Although this research addresses space weather as it relates to the Sun-Earth connection, I can assure you space weather will encompass our solar systems connection to our galaxy Milky Way within the next few years… (wipe smirk off face) however, SOC’s published research is already there – and has been since 2012 as identified in my 2012 updated equation. (see below)

This symbiotic causation is driven by charged particles. It has now become known as “space weather.” My research spans back to 1997, when I began to interview some of the highest esteemed scientists from agencies such as NASA, NOAA, ESA, US Naval Observatory, Royal Observatory – along with several professors from highly qualified universities such as Stanford, MIT, Johns Hopkins, Caltec, and UCLA.

Perhaps the most important word in this ‘new’ research is the word “historic”. This is to say scientists have gathered enough data to observe cycles and patterns. In doing so, the day is inching its way closer to better predict and prepare for mini and mega cycle events. And of course…another way to put it is the “ScienceOfCycles.”

Professor Sandra Chapman, from Warwick’s Centre for Fusion, Space and Astrophysics, led a project which charted the space weather in previous solar cycles across the last half century, and discovered an underlying repeatable pattern in how space weather activity changes with the solar cycle.

This exciting research shows that space weather and the activity of the Sun are not entirely random-and may constrain how likely large weather events are in future cycles. This breakthrough will allow better understanding and planning for space weather, and for any future threats it may pose to the Earth.


Science Of Cycles Research Fund

Science Of Cycles keeps you tuned in and knowledgeable of what we are discovering, and how some of these changes will affect our communities and ways of living.


Solar Eruptions May Not Have Slinky-Like Shapes After All

Revisiting some older data, the researchers discovered new information about the shape of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) — large-scale eruptions of plasma and magnetic field from the sun — that could one day help protect satellites in space as well as the electrical grid on Earth.

“Since the late 1970s, coronal mass ejections have been assumed to resemble a large Slinky — one of those spring toys — with both ends anchored at the sun, even when they reach Earth about one to three days after they erupt,” said Noe Lugaz, research associate professor in the UNH Space Science Center. “But our research suggests their shapes are possibly different.”

Knowing the shape and size of CMEs is important because it can help better forecast when and how they will impact Earth. While they are one of the main sources for creating beautiful and intense auroras, like the Northern and Southern Lights, they can also damage satellites, disrupt radio communications and wreak havoc on the electrical transmission system causing massive and long-lasting power outages. Right now, only single point measurements exist for CMEs making it hard for scientists to judge their shapes. But these measurements have been helpful to space forecasters, allowing them a 30 to 60 minute warning before impact. The goal is to lengthen that notice time to hours — ideally 24 hours — to make more informed decisions on whether to power down satellites or the grid.

In their study, published in Astrophysical Journal Letters, the researchers took a closer look at data from two NASA spacecraft, Wind and ACE, typically orbiting upstream of Earth. They analyzed the data of 21 CMEs over a two-year period between 2000 and 2002 when Wind had separated from ACE. Wind had only separated one percent of one astronomical unit (AU), which is the distance from the sun to the Earth (93,000,000 miles). So, instead of now being in front of Earth, with ACE, Wind was now perpendicular to the Sun-Earth line, or on the side.

“Because they are usually so close to one another, very few people compare the data from both Wind and ACE,” said Lugaz. “But 15 years ago, they were apart and in the right place for us to go back and notice the difference in measurements, and the differences became larger with increasing separations, making us question the Slinky shape.”

The data points toward a few other shape possibilities: CMEs are not simple Slinky shapes (they might be deformed ones or something else entirely), or CMEs are Slinky-shaped but on a much smaller scale (roughly four times smaller) than previously thought.

While the researchers say more studies are needed, Lugaz says this information could be important for future space weather forecasting. With other missions being considered by NASA and NOAA, the researchers say this study shows that future spacecraft may first need to investigate how close to the Sun-Earth line they have to remain to make helpful and more advanced forecast predictions.

This research was supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Is On Its Way To The Sun

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is on its way to the Sun.

The spacecraft will transmit its first science observations in December, beginning a revolution in our understanding of the star that makes life on Earth possible.

“This mission truly marks humanity’s first visit to a star that will have implications not just here on Earth, but how we better understand our universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “We’ve accomplished something that decades ago, lived solely in the realm of science fiction.”

Roughly the size of a small car, the spacecraft lifted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT Sunday on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The mission’s findings will help researchers improve their forecasts of space weather events, which have the potential to damage satellites and harm astronauts on orbit, disrupt radio communications and, at their most severe, overwhelm power grids.

During the first week of its journey, the spacecraft will deploy its high-gain antenna and magnetometer boom. It also will perform the first of a two-part deployment of its electric field antennas. Instrument testing will begin in early September and last approximately four weeks, after which Parker Solar Probe can begin science operations.

“T(his) launch was the culmination of six decades of scientific study and millions of hours of effort,” said project manager Andy Driesman, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland. “Now, Parker Solar Probe is operating normally and on its way to begin a seven-year mission of extreme science.”

Over the next two months, Parker Solar Probe will fly towards Venus, performing its first Venus gravity assist in early October – a maneuver a bit like a handbrake turn – that whips the spacecraft around the planet, using Venus’s gravity to trim the spacecraft’s orbit tighter around the Sun. This first flyby will place Parker Solar Probe in position in early November to fly as close as 15 million miles from the Sun – within the blazing solar atmosphere, known as the corona – closer than anything made by humanity has ever gone before.

Throughout its seven-year mission, Parker Solar Probe will make six more Venus flybys and 24 total passes by the Sun, journeying steadily closer to the Sun until it makes its closest approach at 3.8 million miles. At this point, the probe will be moving at roughly 430,000 miles per hour, setting the record for the fastest-moving object made by humanity.

Parker Solar Probe will set its sights on the corona to solve long-standing, foundational mysteries of our Sun. What is the secret of the scorching corona, which is more than 300 times hotter than the Sun’s surface, thousands of miles below? What drives the supersonic solar wind – the constant stream of solar material that blows through the entire solar system? And finally, what accelerates solar energetic particles, which can reach speeds up to more than half the speed of light as they rocket away from the Sun?

Scientists have sought these answers for more than 60 years, but the investigation requires sending a probe right through the unrelenting heat of the corona. Today, this is finally possible with cutting-edge thermal engineering advances that can protect the mission on its daring journey.

“Exploring the Sun’s corona with a spacecraft has been one of the hardest challenges for space exploration,” said Nicola Fox, project scientist at APL. “We’re finally going to be able to answer questions about the corona and solar wind raised by Gene Parker in 1958 – using a spacecraft that bears his name – and I can’t wait to find out what discoveries we make. The science will be remarkable.”

Parker Solar Probe carries four instrument suites designed to study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles, and capture images of the solar wind. The University of California, Berkeley, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Princeton University in New Jersey lead these investigations.

Parker Solar Probe is part of NASA’s Living with a Star program to explore aspects of the Sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The Living with a Star program is managed by the agency’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. APL designed and built, and operates the spacecraft.

The mission is named for Eugene Parker, the physicist who first theorized the existence of the solar wind in 1958. It’s the first NASA mission to be named for a living researcher.