Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Aurorae Light Shows at Ramapo College?

By Lauren Haag

At Ramapo College of New Jersey, temperatures went from an average low 40s previously to 60s and 70s on Wednesday and Thursday, March 7 and 8. If you glanced over at the sun shining down on Ramapo’s campus recently, you’d notice it’s extremely large rays. Even the moon shone extra bright last night. All these occurrences are related to the second largest solar flares of the sun’s 11 year cycle hitting the earth.

In September 1859, the largest recorded solar flares hit the earth, during the sun’s 10 year sun cycle. This event is referred to as the Solar Superstorm, or the Carrington Event. The solar flares were observed by British astronomer, Richard Carrington. Solar flares are caused by coronal mass ejections (CME) from the sun. During the Solar Superstorm of 1859, a CME traveled to earth in 17 hours, an event which normally takes days to arrive. It was the first to clear the way of the solar wind plasma with its strength.

Aurorae, natural light in the sky, were seen through the world, especially over the Caribbean. It was recorded that workers were awaked and arrived to work because they believed it was daylight because of the light intensity created by the aurorae in the sky. They are caused by charged air particles in response to the magnetic field disruption from solar flares.

In the 1859 event, telegraph wires shorted out from the magnetic disruption and widespread fires arose throughout the world. Telegraph wires would be equivalent to our high technology today.

“If a storm that severe occurred today, it could cause up to $2 trillion in initial damages by crippling communications on Earth and fueling chaos among residents and even governments in a scenario that would require four to 10 years for recovery, according to a report earlier this year by the National Academy of Sciences. For comparison, hurricane Katrina inflicted somewhere between $80 billion and $125 billion in damage,” noted Robert Roy Britt, in his book 150 Years Ago: The Worst Solar Storm Ever.

"What's at stake," the Space Weather Prediction Center's Jeff Bogdan said, as stated in National Geographic Daily News, "are the advanced technologies that underlie virtually every aspect of our lives."

Next year is the most intense period of the sun’s 11 year sun cycle. There are various preparations being theorized in the event that the solar flares reach the levels of the Carrington Event, although they are not expected to. Since satellites today can observe solar activity hours prior to the event, it is predicted that we will have 20 hours to take action. Action is proposed to involve manually shutting down all equipment that would be interrupted before it can be.

As for at Ramapo College today, look out for aurorae sightings that could occur here, which were said to occur along the North Eastern United States, and enjoy the warm temperatures. No damage is expected to occur. Effects are expected to last until Friday, March 9.

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