The protons are coming! The protons are coming!


In the Sunlight Foundation computer systems, the people are protected by one unconventional, yet endlessly impressive Timball, our sysadmin. The man investigates the problem and keeps us safe from the offenders. This is his story.

Dear fellow earthlings. We are under attack and the thing that is attacking us is our Sun.

I was alerted via friends on IRC, early this morning they shared with me a Facebook image link:

path of destruction

which showed a scary red spot pretty much completely covering North America (my favorite america), but i wanted to know what the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was doing to monitor the situation. So i jumped on the google and quickly found a pile of realtime data directly from NOAA!

realtime space weather gif

That’s a three day plot of most of the space weather information you’ll need to know! Not does NOAA publish realtime data about weather in space but they also publish realtime data about the weather on Earth! They publish available data in realtime via an ftp site which is great as it enables commercial websites like spaceweather.

This solar event isn’t the largest recorded but it is the latest one that was pointed right at our planet. According to the SWPC space weather scales this current storm is only an S1, R3 event. Which means we can expect no biological or satellite disruptions from the solar radiation, but might experience: “Wide area blackout of HF (high frequency) radio communication, loss of radio contact for about an hour on the sunlight side of Earth.” as well as “Low-frequency navigation signals degraded for about an hour.” That’s great! Not the part about being lost at sea without a radio but the fact that they can give the general public an expectation of the level of damage. So not only does NOAA release in realtime the current conditions but they also translate that into something all of us can understand. Thankfully this event is not an S5 event, think of that like an F5 tornado from the movie Twister.

S5 warning from NOAA

NOAA isn’t the only gov agency that makes this much data available in realtime the U.S. Geological Survey also provides realtime data on current earthquakes and realtime water data:. Empowered with this type of distaster related realtime info families can make plans on which survival shelter is the best for them. I vote for floatable, fireproof, and thickly lead shielded.

If there ever was a complaint is that both USGS and NOAA have websites that are a bit “difficult” to navigate, but that’s a challenge for another day. The protons are coming! The protons are coming!