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Unexpected Solar Wind Stream Hits Earth at 372 Miles Per Second

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On Sunday, Earth’s magnetic field was pelted by a solar wind stream reaching velocities of more than 600 kilometers (372 miles) per second.

While that’s nothing too alarming – solar storms often pummel our planet triggering spectacular auroras – what is weird is that this storm was totally unexpected.

This event was not in the forecast, so the resulting auroras came as a surprise,” SpaceWeather reported

Solar wind occurs when a stream of highly energized particles and plasma can no longer be held back by the Sun’s gravity and burst out towards Earth.

There’s a lot we still don’t know about how our Sun works, but these emissions are thought to come from large bright patches on the Sun known as ‘coronal holes’ and scientists do a great job of monitoring them from here on Earth. 

Through this monitoring, they’re able to create space weather ‘forecasts’ that not only predict when solar storms or solar flares, also known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), are heading our way, but how powerful they’ll be.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t still get surprised like we did over the weekend. 

Early on Sunday, NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) noticed light solar wind streams, which increased significantly and unexpectedly throughout the day.

The cause of this solar storm is still unknown, but SpaceWeather speculates it could have been the early arrival of solar wind expected to come from an equatorial hole in the Sun’s atmosphere two days later.

Or it could have been a missed coronal mass ejection (CME).

A discontinuity in solar wind data at 0045 UT on Aug. 7th hints at a shock wave embedded in the solar wind,” writes Space Weather.

“These days, the active sun is producing so many minor explosions, it is easy to overlook faint CMEs heading for Earth.”

At the time of writing, the high-velocity solar wind continues to slam into Earth’s magnetic field, with records showing the speed is reaching 551.3 kilometers (343 miles) per second as of August 9, 0406 UTC (0006 ET).

The good news is that solar wind isn’t damaging to us here on Earth, safely protected by our planet’s atmosphere. 

When it’s strong, though, it can impact our technologies, causing issues with telecommunication satellites and, in extreme cases, power grids.

These winds were classified as a moderate G2 solar storm – storms are ranked G1 at the lowest end of the scale all the way up to G5, which is a powerful solar storm.

G2 storms can affect high latitude power systems and could impact the orbit predictions of spacecraft, according to Space Weather

If you feel like this all sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve witnessed a lot of solar storms this year, with the Sun now in the active phase of its 11-year solar cycle.

Already this year we’ve been hit by X-class flares and giant coronal holes, more than 2.5 times Earth’s size. Most of the time you’d have no idea this was happening.

Unless you’re an avid aurora watcher, that is.

Fortunately, followers of the Space Weather Alert Service were notified about the unforecast storm and were able to make it out to see the resulting powerful auroras and Steve, which were seen as far south as Pennsylvania.

“I was already in bed getting ready for sleep when the storm began,” astrophotographer Ruslan Merzlyakov told Space Weather.

“Rushing to the beach in Nykøbing Mors, I was able to photograph the first summer auroras in Denmark in 5 years.”

Who knows what the rest of the week may have in store for us.

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There’s one last place Planet Nine could be hiding

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A study recently submitted to The Astronomical Journal
continues to search for the elusive Planet Nine (also called Planet X),
which is a hypothetical planet that potentially orbits in the outer
reaches of the solar system and well beyond the orbit of the dwarf
planet, Pluto.

The goal of this study, which is available on the pre-print server arXiv,
was to narrow down the possible locations of Planet Nine and holds the
potential to help researchers better understand the makeup of our solar
system, along with its formation and evolutionary processes. So, what
was the motivation behind this study regarding narrowing down the
location of a potential Planet 9?

Dr. Mike Brown, who is a Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of
Astronomy at Caltech and lead author of the study, tells Universe Today,
“We are continuing to try to systematically cover all of the regions of
the sky where we predict Planet Nine to be. Using data from Pan-STARRS
allowed us to cover the largest region to date.”

Pan-STARRS, which stands for Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid
Response System, is a collaborative astronomical observation system
located at Haleakala Observatory and operated by the University of
Hawai’i Institute of Astronomy. For the study, the researchers used data
from Data Release 2 (DR2) with the goal of narrowing down the possible
location of Planet Nine based on findings from past studies.

In the end, the team narrowed down possible locations of Planet Nine
by eliminating approximately 78% of possible locations that were
calculated from previous studies. Additionally, the researchers also
provided new estimates for the approximate semimajor axis (measured in
astronomical units, AU) and Earth-mass size of Planet Nine at 500 and
6.6, respectively. So, what are the most significant results from this
study, and what follow-up studies are currently being conducted or
planned?

“While I would love to say that the most significant result
was finding Planet Nine, we didn’t,” Dr. Brown tells Universe Today. “So
instead, it means that we have significantly narrowed the search area.
We’ve now surveyed approximately 80% of the regions where we think
Planet Nine might be.”

In terms of follow-up studies, Dr.
Brown tells Universe Today, “I think that the LSST is the most likely
survey to find Planet Nine. When it comes online in a year or two it
will quickly cover much of the search space and, if Planet Nine is
there, find it.”

LSST stands for Legacy Survey of Space and Time, and is an
astronomical survey currently scheduled as a 10-year program to study
the southern sky and take place at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in
Chile, which is presently under construction.

Objectives for LSST include studying identifying near-Earth asteroids
(NEAs) and small planetary bodies within our solar system, but also
include deep space studies, as well. These include investigating the
properties of dark matter and dark energy and the evolution of the Milky
Way galaxy. But what is the importance of finding Planet Nine?

Dr. Brown tells Universe Today, “This would be the 5th
largest planet of our solar system and the only one with a mass between
Earth and Uranus. Such planets are common around other stars, and we
would suddenly have a chance to study one in our own solar system.”

Scientists began hypothesizing the existence of Planet Nine shortly
after the discovery of Neptune in 1846, including an 1880 memoir
authored by D. Kirkwood and later a 1946 paper authored by American
astronomer, Clyde Tombaugh, who was responsible for discovering Pluto in
1930.

More recent studies include studies from 2016 and 2017 presenting
evidence for the existence of Planet Nine, the former of which was
co-authored by Dr. Brown.

This most recent study marks the
most complete investigation of narrowing down the location of Planet
Nine, which Dr. Brown has long-believed exists, telling Universe Today,
“There are too many separate signs that Planet Nine is there. The solar
system is very difficult to understand without Planet Nine.”

He continues by telling Universe Today that “…Planet Nine explains
many things about orbits of objects in the outer solar system that would
be otherwise unexplainable and would each need some sort of separate
explanation.”

“The cluster of the directions of the orbits is the best know, but
there is also the large perihelion distances of many objects, existence
of highly inclined and even retrograde objects, and the high abundance
of very eccentric orbits which cross inside the orbit of Neptune. None
of these should happen in the solar system, but all are easily
explainable as an effect of Planet Nine.”

More information:
Michael E. Brown et al, A Pan-STARRS1 Search for Planet Nine, arXiv (2024). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2401.17977

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‘October Surprise’: Russia To Launch Nukes in Space

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The ‘national security threat’ announced on Wednesday is
about Russia planning to launch nuclear weapons in space, causing some
to speculate whether it’s really an election year ploy.

The panic began when House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Turner
(R-Ohio) asked President Biden to declassify information about a
“serious national security threat”.

Modernity.news reports: The weapon would reportedly be designed to be used to take out satellites.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) responded by telling reporters he wanted “to assure the American people, there is no need for public alarm.”

The big, scary threat is serious business and involves a space-based nuke controlled by evil dictator Putin, but it’s also “not an immediate crisis,” according to what three members of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee have told Politico.

Okay, then. Just for election season, is it?

Zero Hedge reports: “So, the question is – was this:

a) a distraction from Biden’s broken brain, or

2) a last desperate attempt to get more funding for anything-but-the-US-border, or

iii) a path to pitching Putin as the uber-bad-guy again after his interview with Tucker Carlson.”

Just by coincidence, Mike Turner recently returned from Ukraine having lobbied for billions more in weapons and aid for Zelensky’s government.

Some questioned the timing, suggesting it might all be a deep state plot to keep American voters afraid when they hit the ballot box.

Speculation will now rage as to whether this is “the event,” real or imagined, that billionaires and elitists the world over have been building underground survival bunkers in preparation for.

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