In the news: 2013 – The Year of Solar Flare

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The sun erupted with an X1.7 class solar flare on May 12th, 2013. This is a blend of two images of the flare from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. One image shows the light in the 171-angstrom wavelength and the other show the 131 angstroms.

Are science fiction literature authors correct when they write about solar flares causing Earth’s communications to fail and causing catastrophes worldwide or is this simply a convenient plot device? The year 2013 has seen the most solar flares since 2003 because the Sun’s magnetic field cycle is reversing polarization, as it does every 11 years. This reversal causes larger and more frequent solar flares, which explains why this year has seen a large number of these impressive solar weather occurrences in many years.  National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials say “the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013” (NASA News, 2013, found below).

Early in October the Earth was treated to a wonderful display of Northern Lights, illuminating the sky with brilliant dancing colors throughout the Northern United States and Canada. A solar flare directed at the Earth sent a larger than average stream of magnetized radiation at the Earth, which reacted with the Earth’s own gravity and magnetic field, creating Northern Lights. This particular flare was a class M, which was not strong enough to disrupt any satellites or space stations orbiting the Earth but is still considered impressive by NASA’s standards.

The question remains: how will these solar flares affect technology and are they dangerous to the Earth? Below are some informative links explaining what solar flares are, how they affect technology, and how they are studied.

What are solar flares and why are they important:

Solar Flare Theory Educational Web Pages (find it on the ipl2)
http://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/sftheory/index.htm

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the Heliophysics Science Division offers a detailed look at solar flares, explaining what a solar flare is, why it’s important to study solar flares, and what impact solar flares have. Additionally, this site reviews current research projects in the field of solar flares, such as the RHESSI Spacecraft.

NASA News (find it on the ipl2)
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News060813-m5.9flare_prt.htm

On June 8th, 2013, NASA announced that a class M solar flare had occurred on June 7th. NASA explained effects such as moderate radio blackout are common with class M solar flares. NASA officials also stated that increased solar weather activities, like flares, were likely to occur more frequently in 2013, as the magnetic field was likely to reach “solar maximum.” The United States Space Weather Prediction Center with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association predicts that the solar flare activities are likely to increase late in 2013.

The Sun Also Flips: 11-Year Solar Cycle Wimpy, but Peaking (New!)
http://www.news.wisc.edu/22222

University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Terry Devitt provides an in depth explanation of the solar flare and of solar maxes, explaining that the Sun’s magnetic field reverses direction every 11 years, causing sunspots, solar flares, auroras, and geomagnetic storms.  Devitt also discusses the effects of superflares and their potential global threat to the Earth.

The not-so Northern Lights: Solar Flare Slams into Earth to Display Majestic Aurora as Far South as Kansas, Maine and Donegal (New!)
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2442531/Solar-flare-causes-Northern-Lights-US-Kansas-Maine-Donegal.html#ixzz2iNzp8EQf

The Daily Mail Online explains how a powerful solar flare brought the Northern Lights as far south as Kansas, Main, and Donegal (a town in Ireland). The site explains the phenomena and includes many lovely photos from Paul Cyr illustrating an Amish family experiencing the Lights for the first time. The Daily explains what a solar flare is, why it occurs, and that in December of 2013 this solar flare cycle will reach its peak, undoubtedly creating more Northern Lights.

How do they affect technology on the Earth:

The Effects of Solar Flares on Technology (New!)
http://www.ehow.com/list_7584091_effects-solar-flares-technology.html

eHow explains the Effects of Solar Flares on Technology in a manner that is clear and easy to understand. eHow explains the Sun’s 11 year magnetic energy cycle and its effect on the rate of solar flare as it changes.  The site additionally outlines the effect on the power grids, GPS technology, and mobile devices.

Could an Extremely Powerful Solar Flare Destroy all the Electronics on Earth? (find it on the ipl2)
http://science.howstuffworks.com/solar-flare-electronics.htm

In Jonathan Strickland’s article with HowStuffWorks.com, he explains the nature of the sun, solar flares, and the potential for damage for our planet when a solar flare happens. Strickland explains that the majority of flares are absorbed in our atmosphere, creating Northern Lights and leaving the majority of people unharmed, but for people in space or at high altitudes skin cancer or irritation is a risk depending of the flare’s classification; additionally Strickland explains the vulnerability of satellites and electronics. The last super-storm from the Sun happened in 1859, when a flare so powerful occurred that Cubans saw the Northern Light. Strickland explains that if a similar flare happened today, it would take months to repair the damage.

Solar Flare Warning Issued by NASA (New!)
http://www.inquisitr.com/914975/solar-flare-warning-issued-by-nasa/

On August 21st NASA issued a Solar Flare Warning as a storm hurtled toward the Earth at 3 million mph, interrupting some satellites used for GPSs and airline communications. The article from Inquisitor explains that 3 million mph is an average speed for solar storms. Additionally the Northern Lights is an extraordinary side effect of the these storms.  When the solar radiation from the the flare hits the Earth’s magnetic field, the radiation breaks up in the atmosphere creating the Northern Lights in the sky, which are brightest at the poles of the Earth where the magnetic field is the strongest.

Solar Effects (find it on the ipl2)
http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/info/SolarEffects.html

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Space Weather Predictions Centers (SWPC) offers detailed descriptions of solar effects, including solar cycles, solar-terrestrial effects (the solar weather’s effects on earth), and a look at SWPC’s other solar weather operations. The table provided on this site is particularly helpful in laying out the specific effects that solar weather has on the Earth.

How do we study the sun:

Scientists have High Hopes for Japan’s Solar-B Mission Which has been Launched from the Uchinoura Space Port (find it on the ipl2)
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5371162.stm

Here the BBC’s Jonathan Amos discusses Japan’s new mission to study solar explosions. In September of 2006, Japan sent the spacecraft Solar-B into space carrying a probe, which will find out more about the Sun’s magnetic fields that cause solar flares when their 11-year cycle changes, flinging radiation into space. Amos explains that the probe will act as magnet to study the sun, giving scientists the hope that with finer detail they will be able to predict solar flares more accurate and avoid disaster in the future.

The Classification of X-ray Solar Flares or “Solar Flare Alphabet Soup” (find it on the ipl2)
http://spaceweather.com/glossary/flareclasses.html

SpaceWeather.com gives a unique look into the science of classifying solar flares. By analyzing strength of wattage, or the measurement of light admitted from the Sun, in a measurement called an Angstrom, scientists are able to determine the classifications; for example 10^-5.5 watts measures up to a class M solar event.  The site then explains how class X could lead to lasting radio blackout and radiation, class M would cause radiation in the Earth’s magnetic field and radio blackouts around the pole, and class C are unnoticed by the public.

Strongest Solar Flare in Months Unleashed by Sun (find it on the ipl2)
http://www.nbcnews.com/science/strongest-solar-flare-months-unleashed-sun-8C11369482

NBC’s Denise Chow offers a clear explanation of the class system for solar flares in a report of the event on October 9th, 2013, when at 9:48pm EDT one of the strongest solar flare in two months occurred. Chow illustrates the role of Earth’s magnetic field and how the flare could disrupt communications on Earth.

Our Sun (New!)
http://www.kidsastronomy.com/our_sun.htm

This children’s site illustrates the fundamentals of solar astronomy, highlighting key points like x-ray classification of solar flares, convection, thermonuclear fusion, and sun spots and winds. This site is particularly helpful because it offers HD video from NASA and the Kids Know It Network.

NASA Canyon of Fire on the Sun (find it on the ipl2)
http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasa-releases-movie-of-suns-canyon-of-fire/#.UmmFvfmsiSo

Nasa’s YouTube Channel offers look at an eruption of solar material that occurred in late September. The video illustrates how the Sun is actually made out of plasma, and as magnetic fields change cycles, eruptions, like solar flares, can happen. This video demonstrates that by analyzing the eruption at different wavelengths, as demonstrated by the multiple colors, scientists are able to study the magnetic field around the Sun.

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In The News: Connecting Through Social Media

Social Media Word Cloud created at wordle.net.

Social Media Word Cloud created at wordle.net.

It has become evident in the last few years that social media is about more than keeping in touch. Social media has become a way for us to become connected in more ways than ever before. This week’s In The News highlights recent events in which the importance of the social media connection exists.

New resources that will be added to the ipl2 are noted NEW!  All other resources can already be found in the ipl2 collection.

Amanda Palmer: The Art of Asking – TED (find it on the ipl2)

http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking.html

Musician Amanda Palmer is famous for breaking with her major recording label so that she could create music her way. She has infamously used her twitter account to connect with her fans all across the world in order to find boarding, food, musicians, and possible “ninja gig” locations. The strong connection she has with her fans allowed her to raise over $1 million in her kickstarter  project in 2012.  At the 2013 TED Convention, Amanda Palmer shares the importance of connection – online and in-person – and why no one should ever be afraid of asking for what they need.

NEW! I’m Still Here: Back Online After a Year without the Internet – The Verge

http://www.theverge.com/2013/5/1/4279674/im-still-here-back-online-after-a-year-without-the-internet

On April 30, 2012, The Verge tech writer, Paul Miller, left the internet that he thought was making him an unproductive. In this article he details his year long journey without the internet and the surprising conclusions he developed about the internet’s part in the real world and staying connected with those around you.

Social Media and the Search for the Boston Bombers – CBS News (find it on the ipl2)

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18559_162-57580603/social-media-and-the-search-for-the-boston-bombing-suspects/

This CBS News article discusses the search for the Boston Bombing suspects last month via twitter with Mashable< http://mashable.com/&gt; Editor-in-Chief Lance Ulanoff. In this recent crisis people turned to social media to discover information and to help with the search. Ulanoff explains that while the crowdsourcing information wasn’t always correct, the people on Twitter and Reddit would start over and get it right.

Social Media Helps Cancer Patient – Huffington Post (find it on the ipl2)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/12/marie-sowler-19yearold-ca_n_3254576.html

Through YouTube, Reddit, and twitter, social media helped dying cancer patient Marie Sowler reach out to Sleeping With Sirens singer, Kellin Quinn. It took a less than a day for Kellin to respond and figure out how to meet her young fan.

Social Media Safety – NetSmartz.org (find it on the ipl2)

http://www.netsmartz.org

Social media is a wonderful way to stay connected with people, but it’s also important to remember the rules of online safety.  NetSmartz is supported by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and provides internet and social media safety advice for parents, teens, and children.  Stay safe!

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In the News: Social Media as a Force in Social Movements

The recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East have been fueled by news and other communications relayed through the Internet in general and new social media such as Facebook and Twitter in particular.  Iran has restricted access to Facebook and Libya reportedly cut off Internet access intermittently (perhaps following a precedent set in Egypt), which was seen as a means of eliminating communication between protesters and the outside world.

Some critics have said that the role of social media has been overplayed and that the movements arose from longer-term social forces.  Yet one cannot deny that social media have played a major role in the events now shaking Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, Bahrain, Iran, Yemen, and Libya.  Read more about these events below.

New resources that will be added to the ipl2 are noted NEW! All other resources are already listed in the ipl2 collections.

NEW! How Cyber-Pragmatism Brought Down Mubarak

http://www.thenation.com/article/158498/how-cyber-pragmatism-brought-down-mubarak

This article in The Nation describes how “cyber-pragmatism,” or dissemination of historical examples of nonviolent social activists such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King and organization of protests, through social media influenced the revolt in Egypt.

NEW! Facebook Officials Keep Quiet on Its Role in Revolts

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/business/media/15facebook.html?ref=middleeast

Despite the major role played by social networks, particularly Facebook, in the revolts rocking North Africa and the Middle East, Facebook officials are trying to stay silent on the matter.  This article details Facebook’s desire to remain neutral so as not to alienate countries where it has just gained a foothold, and its determination to continue its policy of requiring users to sign up with their real names—a policy that has been criticized for possibly putting dissenters at risk—though it has assisted Tunisian protesters in their efforts to block government attempts to access their passwords.  The article also describes how other social media, such as Twitter and YouTube, have been more vocal in their support for the movements and even have taken initiatives to assist protesters.

NEW! The Twitter Revolution Debate Is Dead

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/02/the-twitter-revolution-debate-is-dead/71185/

This article from The Atlantic discusses how the argument that social media singlehandedly cause social movements that lead to revolution is passé and notes that authoritarian governments also can use technology to further their own goals, but points out that perhaps the most exciting development is that political pundits are now discussing the structure of revolutions and the role of technology in furthering them or subduing them.

NEW! All Eyes Turn To Internet In Libya, Bahrain

http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/114678/20110221/libya-bahrain-could-try-internet-kill-switch.htm

As part of efforts to stem growing protests, Libya apparently cut off access to the Internet at the end of last week.  Internet access was restored, but was intermittent over the weekend.  This article points out that the outages could have been caused by power failures and the relatively small number of Internet service providers in the country, but also describes how many believe that Internet access was deliberately shut down.

Thank you for checking in.  The teams at the ipl2 hope you find this information useful for learning more about social media as a force in social movements.

Reminder: You can now subscribe to ipl2’s newsletter and weekly blog posts via email as well as RSS. The “Email Subscription” feature appears prominently in the upper left page on the ipl2′s News and Information WordPress blog. Subscription is free and open to all!

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