After a good deal of hand-wringing and breath-holding, NASA engineers have finally brought the Solar X-Ray Imager (SXI) on the GOES-15 satellite (formerly called GOES-P) online, to return its first detailed images of the sun to Earth.
The Goestationary Operational Environmental Satellite was launched March 4, but when they tried to turn on SXI what appeared to be a short in the instrument's circuitry caused the instrument to receive lower-than-necessary voltages, among other problems. On June 3 engineers finally got the instrument online and it seemed they had fixed the problem, but they weren't completely sure until the first images came back from SXI.
Those images, aside from being quite beautiful, are very important to space weather observers like NASA, the NOAA, the FAA, and even the Department of Defense. At a space weather conference held just last week in Washington D.C., NASA and other leading space weather researchers warned that in 2013 the sun's 22-year magnetic energy cycle will peak at the same time its 11-year cycle of solar flare activity also hits its maximum.
The resulting rise in solar radiation could potentially knock out power grids, disable electronic devices, and disrupt satellites, though its worth noting that while the threat is elevated none of this is particularly likely. But a worst-case scenario floated by the National Academy of Sciences a couple of years ago warned that intense solar activity could possibly cause economic damage 20 times worse than that of Hurricane Katrina.
The point being it doesn't hurt to keep an eye on what's happening on the solar surface, and GOES-15's SXI, along with other instruments like the Solar Dynamics Observatory, are key to doing exactly that.
Whenever NASA takes a picture of the sun it always looks like it is going to kill us. And from what the article says about the cycles peaking around the same time it look like doom is just around the corner.
Gonna go get my tinfoil hat.
Your comments are awesome, and the fact that your signature 'Gonna go get my tinfoil hat.' matches every one of them so well just makes it 100x better.
I wonder how long it will be until we finally trash the whole environment we live in to a point that we will all need to live inside domes on the surface of Earth (or even underground) and send out robots to get the resources we need. maybe we are closer to this than we think (whatever happened to the disappearing o-zone?) and the government just wants to save the best and the brightest.
Now I'm starting to want a tinfoil hat too...
sense the beginning of time, man has yearned to blow up the sun!
Ummm.... I did some complex math and determined that an 11 year cycle and a 22 year cycle will line up every...22 YEARS! If this was really going to be that big of a deal I think we would have noticed 20 years ago and every 22 years before that.
@dontcallmechief Your math isn't exactly bad, its the intent you put behind it. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure that they mentioned this is dangerous towards power grids and things like your cell phone. Although a lot of our power grid hasn't really been upgraded, there is far more power being transmitted at all times, which means the stress mixed with our angry sun equals overload. I also am trying to recall how much I used my cell phone in 1990. I'm having trouble remembering, but that could be because I bought my first cell phone in 2002. My point is that, even though this affects our weather as well, they are preaching more towards the big boom in electronics use that has strained our power grid and led to numerous satellites being launched into space to provide information for those devices and what not.