February 15, 2011
First of all, I must make the point that these solar flares and coronal mass ejections we’re talking about will NOT harm us. At most, these can cause disruptions with satellite communications, but nothing more. On Sunday the sun belched forth an M-class (medium) solar flare with earth in the crosshairs. The stream of charged particles from the eruption is expected to reach earth sometime late tonight, and could create auroral displays visible as far south as the great lakes area. The sun is capable of flares much more powerful, that would create auroras visible all the way down here in TN, but they’re rare. I do expect there to be one or two of that magnitude in the next few years, however, as the sun is climbing toward its next period of maximum sunspot activity, known as solar maximum. It is possible that tonight’s flare could be more powerful than expected, and the resulting aurorae visible this far south, but it’s highly unlikely. If you’re in Canada or the northern US, however, I recommend going outside and looking north tonight. You just might get a treat. (Via space.com and spaceweather.com)
UPDATE: Apparently this same sunspot region produced another, more powerful flare last night. This time it was an X-class flare, though still not powerful enough to cause aurorae visible this far south. (Via Bad Astronomy)
Obama’s proposed budget for 2012 is basically in direct opposition to the Republicans’ ideas. The biggest area of contention will no doubt be science and education spending. Obama wants to boost funding for most everything science-related, which I applaud of course. But of course, Republicans want to make huge cuts in most everything science-related. It’s incredibly sad that most Republicans these days take such anti-science, anti-reality stances on issues. These proposed budgets are simply the beginnings of what will likely be a long, knock-down drag-out battle between the White House and Congress, and I hope there can be some concessions that will allow us to continue to grow in the areas of education and technology without vastly increasing the national debt. Granted, even a modest cut in the defense budget would probably take care of all these problems, but will that ever happen? Hell no. (Via NewScientist) Also, check out this nice infographic created by LiveScience.