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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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Alien space debris stuck in Earth’s orbit, researchers say

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Recently, a group of experts from Harvard University, led by physics
professor Avi Loeb, announced the possible presence of alien space
debris in Earth’s orbit, reports the Daily Star.

Leading
space research expert Professor Loeb is confident that the discovery of
such “interstellar objects could help expand our knowledge of possible
alien civilizations and technologies. A team of scientists is conducting
research to confirm that some of the objects in our orbit may be
connected to other star systems.

During an interview with Live
Science, Professor Loeb explained that these objects could enter the
solar system from interstellar space, defying Jupiter’s gravitational
pull and occupying limited orbits around the sun.

Some of them may
have technological origins similar to the probes sent by mankind into
interstellar space, such as Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, Pioneer 10 and 11
and New Horizons.

However,
despite these interesting assumptions, Professor Loeb did not specify
what specific objects he was talking about. In his research report, he
notes that there could be “a significant number” of potentially
detectable objects in Earth’s orbit.

To confirm their assumptions,
the team of scientists uses computer simulations and the Vera Rubin
Observatory (Chile) with a high-resolution camera of 3.2 billion pixels.
This will allow for regular observations of the Southern sky and the
possibility of detecting several captured objects about the size of a
football field.

It is assumed that these interstellar objects passed through the
boundaries of the solar system and may carry unique information about
other civilizations and their technologies. If we could confirm the
origin of these objects, the mysteries that open before us, this would
be a real breakthrough in space exploration.

Professor Loeb
expresses hope that the new research will not only help expand our
knowledge of extraterrestrial technologies, but may also lead to the
discovery of new alien civilizations . Answers to such questions can be
of global significance and influence our understanding of the place of
mankind in the Universe.

And
while there are still many questions and assumptions, the study by
Professor Loeb and his team opens a new chapter in space exploration.
Each new discovery can be the key to deciphering the mysteries of the
cosmos and the possibility of encountering alien life forms.

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Betelgeuse is acting strange again

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Betelgeuse, a red giant on the brink of death, continues to show
unusual behavior. After the Great Blackout, which occurred in late 2019
and early 2020, the star became unusually bright. It is now the seventh
brightest star in the sky, while it normally ranks tenth. This has led
to speculation that Betelgeuse is preparing to explode in a
spectacularly large supernova.

However, scientists believe it’s too early to tell, and it’s likely
that this behavior is due to ongoing fluctuations after the Great
Blackout of 2019, and the star will return to normal within a decade.

Betelgeuse is one of the most interesting stars in the sky. It is
about 700 light-years from Earth and is a red giant in the last stage of
its life. It is also an unusual star for a red giant because it was
previously a monster blue-white O-type star, the most massive class of
stars.

Betelgeuse has changed its spectral type because it has almost
exhausted its hydrogen reserves. It now burns helium into carbon and
oxygen and has expanded to a gigantic size: about 764 times the size of
the Sun and about 16.5 to 19 times its mass.

Eventually it will run out of fuel to burn, become a supernova, eject
its outer material, and its core will collapse into a neutron star.

Before the Great Blackout, Betelgeuse also had periodic fluctuations
in brightness. The longest of these cycles is about 5.9 years and the
other is 400 days. But it seems that the Great Blackout caused changes
in these oscillations.

A new paper by astrophysicist Morgan McLeod of the
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has shown that the 400-day
cycle appears to have been halved. This pulsational cycle is probably
caused by expansion and contraction within the star. According to
simulations carried out by MacLeod and his colleagues, the convective
flow inside Betelgeuse may have risen and become material that separates
from the star.

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