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This New NASA Mission Could Unlock Secrets of the Northern Lights This New NASA Mission Could Unlock Secrets of the Northern Lights

The aurora borealis is one of the most spectacular light shows Earth’s skies have to offer—but it’s much more than that. The energy that drives the northern lights could also power upwelling in our planet’s upper atmosphere. Weather permitting, two NASA-funded sounding rockets are launching from Norway this month to…

An Earth-Sized Space Shield to Protect Us From Solar Storms Is Less Crazy Than It Sounds An Earth-Sized Space Shield to Protect Us From Solar Storms Is Less Crazy Than It Sounds

Every 100 years or so, our Sun gives off a great big belch that sends an intense wave of charged particles towards Earth. This wasn’t a problem in the past, but our high-tech civilization is now disturbingly vulnerable to these solar storms. A new study quantifies the economic risks posed by these extreme solar…

Why Has Our Sun Been Freaking Out So Much Lately? Why Has Our Sun Been Freaking Out So Much Lately?

Since early last week, the Sun has belched out a steady stream of solar flares, including the most powerful burst recorded in the star’s current 11-year cycle. It sounds very alarming, but scientists say this is simply what stars do every now and then, and that there’s nothing to be concerned about.

Huge Solar Flare Disrupts GPS Satellites Huge Solar Flare Disrupts GPS Satellites

The Sun’s impact on weather here on Earth is clear: It makes it hot or cold, it powers air currents, it causes water to evaporate making rain, et cetera. But with our increasing reliance on satellites and electronics, you can’t forget its more insidious effects—and some satellites got a taste of those yesterday.

Proposed Trump Budget Would Kill Program That Monitors Debilitating Solar Storms Proposed Trump Budget Would Kill Program That Monitors Debilitating Solar Storms

The idea that a huge solar storm could wreak havoc here on Earth isn’t just a sci-fi plot, it’s a situation that countries and power grids around the world actively prepare for. But the Trump Administration’s latest 2017 budget proposal would completely eliminate the program that keeps the continental US under 24/7…

Cold War Nuclear Explosions Freakishly Impacted Space Weather Cold War Nuclear Explosions Freakishly Impacted Space Weather

The overdrawn game of nuclear chicken between the USSR and the United States—now known as the Cold War—lasted about 45 years. While neither superpower ever deployed nukes on each others’ soil, high-altitude bomb testing caused a kerfuffle in Earth’s atmosphere. Though the conflict has (thankfully) long since ended, …

Solar Storms Are Doing Something Weird to Our Atmosphere Solar Storms Are Doing Something Weird to Our Atmosphere

Every once in a while our Sun gives off a tremendous belch of high energy particles. Called a coronal mass ejection (CME), these episodes can vary in intensity, but they can produce bursts of electrical charge when they interact with our upper atmosphere in a geomagnetic storm. In a strange twist, new research shows…

These Ancient Texts Might Help Us Predict the Next Massive Solar Storm These Ancient Texts Might Help Us Predict the Next Massive Solar Storm

Spotting the Northern Lights anywhere in the United States (except for Alaska and the Upper Midwest) would probably be one of most notable experiences in an American space fan’s life. Now imagine if it was China or Japan a thousand years ago and you didn’t know what caused these light shows. Odds are, you’d freak out…

We Might Finally Have a Good Way to Predict Dangerous Space Weather

Space weather forecasting—predicting the kind of energetic particles the Sun will throw at us—is years behind weather forecsting here on Earth. As solar physicist Scott McIntosh put it, “Our current model of space weather forecasting is, ‘oh shit a sunspot happened eight minutes ago, now we have to figure out what’s…

New Space Weather Warning System Could Buy Astronauts Precious Extra Time New Space Weather Warning System Could Buy Astronauts Precious Extra Time

Space weather is dangerous. Rogue high-energy particles fired off by the Sun can damage radio communications and electronics (including voting machines) here on Earth. By altering their DNA, the radiation can also be a true health hazard to astronauts and even airplane pilots.

Space Weather Can Alter Electronic Voting Machines Space Weather Can Alter Electronic Voting Machines

When all sources of errors have been ruled out and 4096 phony votes have still been given to a candidate, who do you blame? In some cases, these kinds of glitches may be coming from outer space, according to scientists who discussed this cosmic conundrum today at the annual meeting of American Association for the…

A Monster Solar Storm Could Cost the US $40 Billion Daily A Monster Solar Storm Could Cost the US $40 Billion Daily

Our planet is due to be hit with a powerful solar storm, an event that happens about once every hundred years. New research shows that losses from the ensuing blackouts could total $41.5 billion per day in the US alone, including nearly $7 billion lost in trade.

It Rains Rubies and Sapphires on This Distant Jupiter-Like Planet It Rains Rubies and Sapphires on This Distant Jupiter-Like Planet

A Jupiter-like planet located 1,000 light-years from Earth is exhibiting some rather strange meteorological behavior. The clouds on this planet appear to be made from corundum—the same mineral that produces rubies and sapphires.

We've Never Seen The Solar Wind Like This Before We've Never Seen The Solar Wind Like This Before

Like an endless blaze roaring forth from the gates of hell, the solar wind is majestic, awe inspiring, and terrifying. The only proof you need that the Sun is the one and true master of our solar system is this never-before-seen view of a torrent of charged particles bursting out of our star’s corona.

A Solar Flare Almost Sparked a Nuclear War in 1967 A Solar Flare Almost Sparked a Nuclear War in 1967

On May 23rd, 1967, the United States Air Force scrambled to ready nuclear missile-laden aircraft for deployment. Radar systems designed to detect incoming Soviet missiles had just been disrupted, in what the military perceived to be an act of war. But before any nukes were launched in retaliation, it seems Air Force…

Jupiter's Northern Lights Look Absolutely Incredible Jupiter's Northern Lights Look Absolutely Incredible

If you want to see beautiful auroras, forget Alaska, Canada, and Iceland—check out Jupiter. At the gas giant’s north pole, the most powerful and luminous northern lights in the solar system shimmer and glow in an endless geomagnetic storm that’s larger than our entire planet.

Astronomers Might Have Just Solved a Key Mystery About the Origin of Life Astronomers Might Have Just Solved a Key Mystery About the Origin of Life

If a massive solar storm struck the Earth today, it could wipe out our technology and hurl us back to the dark ages. Lucky for us, events like this are quite rare. But four billion years ago, extreme space weather was probably the norm. And rather than bringing the apocalypse, it might have kickstarted life.

A Major Mystery About Earth's Magnetic Field Has Just Been Solved A Major Mystery About Earth's Magnetic Field Has Just Been Solved

For the first time, physicists have observed a mysterious process called magnetic reconnection—wherein opposing magnetic field lines join up, releasing a tremendous burst of energy. The discovery, published today in Science, may help us unlock the secrets of space weather and learn about some of the weirdest, most…

This Model of the Sun's Magnetic Field Is Beautiful Insanity This Model of the Sun's Magnetic Field Is Beautiful Insanity

A team of scientists has created a new, high-resolution model of the complex magnetic activity on the surface of the Sun. The result is as spellbinding as it is terrifying. Gaze into the roiling ball of plasma that supports everything you hold dear, and feel your sanity slip away.

Something Weird and Amazing Is Happening at Jupiter's North Pole Something Weird and Amazing Is Happening at Jupiter's North Pole

If you were soaring through Jupiter’s turbid skies wearing a pair of x-ray goggles, you might get lucky and witness something incredible. Brilliant flashes of light, more luminous and powerful than the Sun, occurring every 26 minutes and stretching as far as the eye can see. That’s the essence of a massive solar storm…

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