In the news: 2013 – The Year of Solar Flare


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)

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)

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!)

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!)

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!)

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)

In Jonathan Strickland’s article with, 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!)

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)

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)

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) 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)

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!)

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)

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.


The Link: Standardized Testing

In recognition of the ending school year, we’re looking at standardized testing this month. In many places around the world, moving on to the next grade, to the next institution, or to the next level of professional achievement means scoring well on some sort of standardized exam. Many accept this, but others think there are better ways to encourage educational and professional success.

This month we will take a look at the pros and cons of legislation such as the No Child Left Behind Act, explore the difference between college prep tests and graduate/professional tests, and compare standardized testing in the U.S. with the required tests around the globe.

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

No Child Left Behind: Pros and Cons of K-12 Standardized Testing

President George W. Bush signs into law the No Child Left Behind Act. Photo by the Executive Office of the President of the United States, public domain.

No Child Left Behind Act – U.S. Department of Education (find it on the ipl2)

No Child Left Behind was an act of Congress signed in 2002 with the intention of establishing goals and criteria for students to meet. The act requires that all states assess students at specific points within their education in order to receive federal funding. The U.S. Department of Education’s website provides information on the initial act, the changes made with No Child Left Behind, and the more recent additions and changes made by President Obama. U.S. Department of Education’s main purpose is to “promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” Their website serves as a portal of information about the department’s policies, goals, and information to the public.

The Inevitable Corruption of Indicators and Educators Through High-Stakes Testing – NEPC (find it on the ipl2)

This study, conducted by the Education Policy Studies Laboratory at Arizona State University in 2005, examines the effects of standardized testing with the principle of standardized testing. According to the study, Campbell’s law is: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” This study is a part of the National Education Policy Center whose mission is to produce quality research which helps inform education policy discussions. The NEPC is composed of academic staff including nationally recognized education researchers.

Standardized Testing – (find it on the ipl2) is a nonprofit public charity whose goal is “to provide resources for critical thinking and to educate without bias.” The page on standardized testing includes arguments both for and against standardized testing as well as information on the history of testing, and interesting facts about standardized tests. (find it on the ipl2) or The National Center for Fair and Open Testing “works to end the misuses and flaws of standardized testing and to ensure that evaluation of students, teachers and schools is fair, open, valid and educationally.” FairTest’s resources provide information for parents, teachers, and students. Information that can be found include a list of universities that no longer require SAT/ACT scores, data on the link between standardized testing and educational corruption, and discussions on high stakes testing.

College Prep Tests

The first standardized college entrance exam was given in 1901, and ever since the tests have gained prominence as a larger percentage of students plan to further their education at colleges and universities. Although these exams are only part of the college application process, some high school students prep years for the SAT and ACT tests in order optimize their chances for getting into their first choice school.

SAT vs. ACT: Choose Wisely – Huffington Post (find it on the ipl2)

The areas of popularity in the country is not the only difference between the two tests; did you know that the SAT and ACT also differ in test style and time length? Since colleges and universities accept either, make sure you take the one that best suits you.

Test Prep – Petersons (find it on the ipl2)

Whether you choose the SAT or ACT route, it’s good to have an idea of what to expect before you actually take the exam. Peterson’s offers both full-length ACT and SAT free practice tests on their website (registration is required).

Graduate and Professional Tests

For students looking to go on to pursue their Master’s or even Doctoral Degree, even more standardized testing lies in your future: from the PRAXIS for teachers, GRE for general, MCAT for doctors, and LSAT for lawyers, an aptitude for the field needs to be shown before you can be admitted to a graduate program.

World’s Would-Be Grad Students – Inside Higher Ed (find it on the ipl2)

Educational Testing Service recently released data that illustrates “why foreign talent is so important to American graduate programs, especially in math, science and technology fields.”  The results allow colleges to understand the different contexts in which the scores are examined.

Business Schools Know How You Think – Wall Street Journal (find it on the ipl2)

A trend among business schools is starting to take more than GMAT scores and academic achievements into account. Emotional intelligence quotient (EQ), a tool used by companies to assess top talent, is becoming a standard part of the business school application process. “While a low EQ won’t outright ruin someone who otherwise dazzles on paper, Mr. Garcia says, a high EQ—in certain cases, at least—can offset mediocre performance elsewhere.”

The G.R.E. vs. the GMAT – New York Times (find it on the ipl2)

“The Educational Testing Service administers the G.R.E. and used to do the same for the GMAT before losing the rights two years ago to ACT Inc. and Pearson. Now it is trying to get some of that business back, lobbying business schools to accept the G.R.E. as an alternative to the GMAT: more than 115 have agreed, including at Stanford, M.I.T. and Johns Hopkins. What’s the difference between the tests? Both assess verbal and quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and writing. “Contrary to what people might think, there are no business or finance aspects of the GMAT that make it specialized,” says David G. Payne, an associate vice president of E.T.S.”

Standardized Testing Around the Globe

New! Action Canada Task Force on Standardized Testing

The Action Canada Task Force Project is comprised of young, educated Canadian citizens with brought together by Action Canada (, a national fellowship program that builds practical leadership skills and policy development experience. Three Action Canada three task force teams are formed each year and are given the challenge of selecting a policy research topic. This Task Force chose to focus specifically on standardized testing because of the importance that this accountability measure has taken during the past two decades in Canadian context.

Could You Pass the 11-Plus? – BBC News (find it on the ipl2)

BBC News gives its readers an opportunity to test their academic skill by taking a timed, 15-question sample of the formally required standardized test given to all U.K. schoolchildren in their final year of primary school. Are you smarter than an English 5th grader was expected to be 40 years ago?

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – OECD (find it on the ipl2)

PISA is an international study that was launched by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 1997. It aims to evaluate education systems worldwide every three years by assessing the competencies in the key subjects such as reading, mathematics and science of 15-year-old children all over the world. Over 70 countries and economies have participated in PISA. The OECD’s website provides several comprehensive videos on the benefits of this assessment.

New! Testing and Assessment – U.K. Department of Education

The U.K. Department of Education uses this site to break down the National Curriculum assessments, or “the statutory assessments at the end of each Key Stage” of public education. This site links to official documentation on the material covered in standardized exams and other FAQs about administration of them. It also provides information on “optional tests.”

Thank you for visiting the ipl2!

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-hand side of the page on the ipl2’s News and Information WordPress blog. Subscription is free and open to all!


In the News: U.S. National Teacher Appreciation Day

Teacher’s apple.

Rendered by Pixabay, public domain.

In order to celebrate U.S. National Teacher Appreciation Day (observed yesterday, May 7, 2013 as part of National Teacher Week), here are a few sites from the ipl2’s collection for teachers and administrators. Some of these sites are admittedly more fun than others, but they are all share one goal: to support educators everywhere. Enjoy them all week long!

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

NEW! Apple in Education: Resources

This is a collection of video tutorials, classroom guides, and web pages aiming to assist educators in teaching with Apple products (such as the iPad and other devices using iOS), creating classroom content, finding federal funding for projects, and looking for creative ways to support their professional development.

Education World (find it on the ipl2)

Search the web using this education-specific search engine, find lesson plans, browse employment listings, and read articles on current K-12 education issues and professional development.

The Learning Page (find it on the ipl2)

This site was created by the Library of Congress to assist teachers in using the American Memory Collections, an online archive of over 100 collections of rare and unique items important to America’s heritage, to teach history and culture. It offers educators guidance on using primary sources, as well as providing activities, discussions, and lesson plans for classroom use.

PBS TeacherSource (find it on the ipl2)

PBS TeacherSource includes more than 3,000 free lesson plans and activities. To help educators find materials quickly, resources are organized into seven subject areas (Arts & Literature, Health & Fitness, Math, Science, Social Studies, Pre K-2, and Library Media).

ProTeacher (find it on the ipl2)

ProTeacher is a Web directory of lesson plans and activities organized into thematic and subject areas for elementary school teachers and parents.

The Teacher’s Companion to Anime (find it on the ipl2)

A useful guide for teachers who might be considering using manga, anime, or related materials in their classroom as learning material. This site highlights the terminology and symbolism present in Japanese graphic novels and lists possible cultural aspects to be discussed in the classroom. It also addresses some of the “problematic content” that may not be suitable for younger students and acts as an online reader advisory for teachers and librarians alike.

Teachers Support Network (find it on the ipl2)

For teachers and school districts across the U.S., this site provides an extensive database of the best available candidates, ensures their preparedness through unique assessment tools, and offers ongoing support for long-term retention. It also offers Teacher Tools and Advice covering such things as online job hunting and landing your first teaching job.

Thank you for visiting the ipl2!

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-hand side of the page on the ipl2’s News and Information WordPress blog. Subscription is free and open to all!