One of the alarmist predictions for 2012 concerns the supposed cyclical climax of solar flare activity (see the Larry Joseph section in the disinformation documentary 2012: Science or Superstition). Although NASA felt moved to create a web page to deny this kind of story around the release date of Roland Emmerich’s 2012 disaster movie, apparently they are hedging their bets. Chris Hastings and Jonathan Leake report on a new NASA probe that could help scientists predict chaos-causing solar storms, in the Times:
NASA is to embark on one of its most ambitious missions in an attempt to unlock the secrets of the sun.
Following its launch in nine days’ time, the US space agency’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) will spend five years in orbit trying to discover the causes of extreme solar activity, such as sun spots and solar winds and flares.
Scientists have long been aware that disturbances on the sun can trigger dangerous x-rays, charged particles and magnetic fields that can disrupt power supplies, communication signals and aircraft navigation systems on Earth.
By understanding how such solar phenomena are created, they hope to be able to produce reliable forecasts of “space weather” and provide advance warnings of any threat.
Experts have likened the mission to a “giant microscope” that will capture for the first time every nuance of the sun’s exterior. The images relayed to Earth will be 10 times clearer than high-definition television.
Barbara Thompson, project scientist, said: “It is Nasa’s first weather mission and it aims to characterise everything on the sun that can impact on the Earth and near Earth.
“We know things happen on the sun which affect spacecraft, communications and radio signals. If we can understand the underlying causes of what is happening then we can turn this information into forecasts…
[continues in the Times]