Monday, June 14, 2010

What the Hell is Going on Up There, Redux

Do you remember this story from 2008?
Unusually quiet Sun has scientists worried The Sun has been strangely calm this year. For more than 200 days so far this year, no sunspots have been observed. In fact the Sun has been quieter this year than in any year since 1954, when it was calm for 241 days.


No? How about this one from 2009?
A quiet sun could start global cooling Solar activity has considerably slowed down in the last few years. A report by National Geographic News says that the sun is the dimmest it has been in a hundred years. Some scientists are being reminded of the Little Ice Age, a cold period between 1300 and 1850 that made it unusually cold in Europe and North America, which has been linked to slowed solar storm activity. But recent research has shown that solar activity has a larger influence on the climate on Earth than previous theories suggested. If the sun again sinks into a similar depression, at least one preliminary model has suggested that cool spots could crop up in regions of Europe, the United States, and Siberia.
Not ringing a bell? Well, you've probably seen this recent story then:
High-energy electric pulses from the sun could surge to Earth and cripple our electrical grid for years, causing billions in damages, government officials and scientists worry. The House is so concerned that the Energy and Commerce committee voted unanimously 47 to 0 to approve a bill allocating $100 million to protect the energy grid from this rare but potentially devastating occurrence. "The sun is waking up from a deep slumber, and in the next few years we expect to see much higher levels of solar activity," said Richard Fisher, head of NASA's Heliophysics Division. "At the same time, our technological society has developed an unprecedented sensitivity to solar storms."
What caused the Sun to wake up from this deep slumber? Well, not being an heliophysicist I can't answer that. But I can't help but remember this story, from earlier this year:
NASA’s Stereo spacecraft monitoring the Sun began registering huge spherical UFO’s in the vicinity of the Sun around January 18, 2010. According to one observer, the UFOs “appear to be moving as they are in different positions on many [of the NASA Stereo] photos, and are huge possibly at least the size of Earth. If the UFOs were planets or some type of huge asteroid comets, they would already have been pulled into the Sun by the strong gravity the Sun produces as in the case of the recent comet."
Dr. Joe Gurman, NASA Stereo Project scientist states the giant solar UFOs are compression artifacts. Moreover, he states, the "’central data recorder’ at DSN, that stores all the playback data from all the missions DSN supports, failed' on January 18, 2010, the date the solar UFO wave began, thus accounting for the images of giant UFOs.

Now I'm sure those weren't really enormous UFOs. They were probably compression artifacts (or swamp gas or the planet Venus or weather balloons) or something.

But you can't help but wonder about the timing of all of this. In 2008 and 2009 scientists were so concerned about a lack of solar activity that they were predicting a new Ice Age. But all of a sudden ol' Sol wakes up in a cranky mood and now there is serious concern that a wave of solar storms could knock out satellites and the power grid. 

 What changed so suddenly? No one seems to know. But no one can argue that all of this is following the images of what looks very much like enormous spacecraft in orbit around the Sun, be it false data or not. That's quite a coincidence, don't you think?