Tag Archives: solar activity

Another Falcon 9 launch success

The competition heats up: A Falcon 9 rocket today successfully put a NASA solar observation satellite into orbit.

They have also said that they have achieved splashdown of the first stage, though no details yet on how soft that splashdown was.

Update: SpaceX reports that “the first stage successfully soft landed in the Atlantic Ocean within 10 meters of its target. The vehicle was nicely vertical and the data captured during this test suggests a high probability of being able to land the stage on the drone ship in better weather.”

Weather 90% go for Falcon 9 launch today

The weather looks almost perfect for tonight’s Falcon 9 launch.

The Falcon 9 will put a solar observation satellite into orbit. While many left wing media outlets will wax poetic about this is Al Gore’s satellite, it is hardly that. It might have been built initially under his misguided idea of creating a propaganda satellite to take daily images of the Earth (images that are essentially of little use for climate studies), DSCOVR has been very carefully redesigned to give it a real purpose, monitoring the solar activity of the Sun and providing a replacement/back-up for ACE, which is now more than a decade overdue for replacement.

The Falcon 9 launch will also attempt again to land intact its first stage on a floating barge. If this attempt succeeds the entire future of space travel will be reshaped.

Kepler team pushes for mission extension

The Kepler team pushes for a mission extension in order to find Earth-sized planets.

The Kepler spacecraft has hit an unexpected obstacle as it patiently watches the heavens for exoplanets: too many rowdy young stars. The orbiting probe detects small dips in the brightness of a star that occur when a planet crosses its face. But an analysis of some 2,500 of the tens of thousands of Sun-like stars detected in Kepler’s field of view has found that the stars themselves flicker more than predicted, with the largest number varying twice as much as the Sun. That makes it harder to detect Earth-sized bodies. As a result, the analysis suggests that Kepler will need more than double its planned mission life of three-and-a-half years to achieve its main goal of determining how common Earth-like planets are in the Milky Way.

While it is important to find those Earth-sized planets, to me the important discovery here is that Kepler is confirming what previous research has suggested: Stars like our Sun are generally far more active and variable than the Sun itself. Which means that either the Sun is unusual, or has been unusually inactive during recorded human history.

The Sun in April – Steady as she goes!

The monthly updated graph for April of the Sun’s solar cycle sunspot activity was posted yesterday by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. You can see it below.

Though the Sun remained active, you can see that the steep increase in sunspot activity that occurred in March has ceased. At the moment it looks as if the Sun’s sunspot activity is following the most recent scientific prediction, more or less exactly, though the small dip in April puts the numbers slightly below that prediction.

All in all, we still appear to be headed to the weakest solar maximum in two hundred years.

April Sunspot activity

Hot time on the ol’ Sun tonight!

After literally years of inactivity, well below all initial predictions, the Sun truly came to life this past month. Below is the March monthly update of the Sun’s sunspot cycle, published by NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center. The red curve is the prediction, while the dotted black line shows the actual activity.

As you can see, the Sun’s sunspot activity shot up precipitously. Though I don’t have the data from past years, the March jump appears to me to probably be one of the fastest monthly rises ever recorded.

Does this mean the newest prediction from the solar scientists at the Marshall Space Flight Center calling for a weak solar maximum in 2013 is wrong? Probably not, though of course in this young field who knows? I would say, however, that the overall trend of the data still suggests the next maximum will be very weak.

Stay tuned! The next few months should finally give us a sense of where the next maximum is heading.

March Sunspot graph