Posts Tagged ‘solar’

Solar flare [credit: NASA]


Even though the current solar cycle (SC 24) is well-known for its relatively low level of sunspots, it can still produce surprisingly powerful bursts of ‘counter-intuitive’ activity, causing solar scientists to put their thinking caps on.

A series of rapid-fire solar flares is providing the first chance to test a new theory of why the sun releases its biggest outbursts when its activity is ramping down, says Science News.

Migrating bands of magnetism that meet at the sun’s equator may cause the biggest flares, even as the sun is going to sleep. A single complex sunspot called Active Region 2673 emitted seven bright flares — powerful bursts of radiation triggered by magnetic activity — from September 4 to September 10.

Four were X-class solar flares, the most intense kind.

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This may go some way to counter complaints that it’s mostly the better-off who can afford to buy solar power and benefit from its subsidies. On the other hand even council tenant subsidies have to be paid from utility bills in the end.

Andrew James

Solar panels are to be installed in 800,000 low-income homes across England and Wales over the next five years, as part of a new government scheme.

The Dutch firm, Maas Capital is investing £160m in the project.

The panels are expected to save 100,000 tenants living in social housing hundreds of pounds, according to the UK firm Solarplicity.

The first tenants to benefit from the scheme include residents of a sheltered retirement home in Ealing, west London.

Speaking at the site, International Trade minister Greg Hands said, “This initial £160m capital expenditure programme will deliver massive benefits to some of the UK’s poorest households.

“As well as creating 1,000 jobs and delivering cheaper energy bills for up to 800,000 homes, it shows yet another vote of confidence in the UK as a place to invest and do business.”

The firm providing the panels, Solarplicity, will partner with more than 40…

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Also eclipsing internet records


Only to be be expected, but the great American eclipse was a massive internet hit, as the daily sun [sic] reports.

The total solar eclipse of August 21 attracted more traffic to NASA websites than any other event on record, according to data revealed by the US space agency, reports Ians. 

“With more than 90 million page views on nasa.gov and eclipse2017.nasa.gov, we topped our previous web traffic record about seven times over,” NASA officials wrote. 

It was one of the biggest internet events in recent history and by far the biggest online event NASA has ever measured. “We estimate more than 40 million views of our live broadcast on nasa.gov and multiple social platforms,” NASA said. 

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2017 eclipse path over US [credit: NASA — click on image to enlarge]


Time to go fishing for insights into eclipse phenomena, thanks to a loan of specialized US Navy comms equipment.

On Monday, just as CU Denver began the new academic year, an awe-inspiring solar eclipse captivated people across North America, reports Phys.org.

A thin line of total solar coverage spanned, at various intervals, the continental United States, completely blocking out the sun from Lincoln Beach, Ore., to Charleston, S.C., for a few remarkable minutes.

Mark Golkowski, PhD, acting chair and associate professor of Electrical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at CU Denver, and several students collected data during this rare celestial event by using state-of-the-art Naval submarine communication technology.

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Sunspots [image credit: NASA]


One of the authors of the research says: “The results of our study show us that we have identified the governing parameters in our model”. Both climate and exoplanet research could benefit from the findings.

The Sun shines from the heavens, seemingly calm and unvarying. In fact, it doesn’t always shine with uniform brightness, but shows dimmings and brightenings, reports Phys.org.

Two phenomena alone are responsible for these fluctuations: the magnetic fields on the visible surface and gigantic plasma currents, bubbling up from the star’s interior.

A team headed by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Göttingen reports this result in today’s issue of Nature Astronomy. For the first time, the scientists have managed to reconstruct fluctuations in brightness on all time scales observed to date – from minutes up to decades.

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Credit: Solar Squared


Leaving aside questions like cost, effectiveness and ease of replacement, the idea is that ‘the electricity generated will then be available to power the building, be stored or used to charge electric vehicles’.

Buildings could soon be able to convert the sun’s energy into electricity without the need for solar panels, thanks to innovative new technology, reports Phys.org.

Renewable Energy experts from the University of Exeter are developing a pioneering new technique that could accelerate the widespread introduction of net-zero energy buildings through the latest Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV).

These products, similar to the solar tile created by Tesla, can become a part of a building’s architecture to generate electricity.

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Something new for solar theorists to ponder. Of course the surface itself doesn’t have a uniform rotation speed – at the equator it rotates faster than it does at the poles. ‘The idea that the solar core could be rotating more rapidly than the surface has been considered for more than 20 years, but has never before been measured’.

The sun’s core rotates nearly four times faster than the sun’s surface, according to new findings by an international team of astronomers. Scientists had assumed the core was rotating like a merry-go-round at about the same speed as the surface, says Phys.org.

“The most likely explanation is that this core rotation is left over from the period when the sun formed, some 4.6 billion years ago,” said Roger Ulrich, a UCLA professor emeritus of astronomy, who has studied the sun’s interior for more than 40 years and co-author of the study that was published today in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

“It’s a surprise, and exciting to think we might have uncovered a relic of what the sun was like when it first formed.”

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What to do with millions of tons of retired solar panels? Answers on a postcard to China.

China will have the world’s worst problem with ageing solar panels in less than two decades, according to a recent industry estimate, as South China Morning Post reports.

Lu Fang, secretary general of the photovoltaics division in the China Renewable Energy Society, wrote in an article circulating on mainland social media this month that the country’s cumulative capacity of retired panels would reach up to 70 gigawatts (GW) by 2034.

That is three times the scale of the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydropower project, by power production.

By 2050 these waste panels would add up to 20 million tonnes, or 2,000 times the weight of the Eiffel Tower, according to Lu.

“In fair weather, prepare for foul,” she warned.

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Credit: NASA

The report at Phys.org explains that “Even though the moon blocking the sun during a solar eclipse and clouds blocking sunlight to Earth’s surface are two different phenomena, both require similar mathematical calculations to accurately understand their effects.”

It was mid-afternoon, but it was dark in an area in Boulder, Colorado on Aug. 3, 1998. A thick cloud appeared overhead and dimmed the land below for more than 30 minutes. Well-calibrated radiometers showed that there were very low levels of light reaching the ground, sufficiently low that researchers decided to simulate this interesting event with computer models.

Now in 2017, inspired by the event in Boulder, NASA scientists will explore the moon’s eclipse of the sun to learn more about Earth’s energy system. On Aug. 21, 2017, scientists are looking to this year’s total solar eclipse passing across America to improve our modelling capabilities of Earth’s energy.

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Credit: NASA


Extreme ultraviolet radiation (EUV) is perhaps an aspect of solar activity that gets less attention than it should. The authors make the interesting point in their introduction to the research article that ‘Although the total solar irradiance at Earth varies very little, the relative variance in the EUV is as large as the mean irradiance. This EUV light interacts with Earth’s thermosphere and stratosphere and may affect climate in a “top-down” process in regions such as northern Europe’.

A pair of researchers with Aberystwyth University in the U.K. has used data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory to learn more about how the sun’s corona behaves over differing stages of its 11-year cycle, reports Bob Yirka at phys.org.

In their paper published on the open access site Science Advances, Huw Morgan and Youra Taroyan describe attributes of the sun they observed over time and what they discovered about the “quiet corona” and its possible impact on us back here on Earth.

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Anyone who fondly imagines that wind and solar power are about to become as cheap as chips in some glorious renewable future, should read this tale of Australian woe.

STOP THESE THINGS

No way back from here: Malcolm muddles & Frydenberg fudges.

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Australia’s energy crisis is a self-inflicted calamity with no apparent end in sight.

The PM, Malcolm Turnbull seems intent on protecting his son, Alex’s investment in Australia’s most notorious wind power outfit, Infigen (see our post here).

While his gormless Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg behaves like a punch-drunk boxer, who cannot land a punch and with absolutely no idea what’s going on around him.

Into that mix strides Alan Finkel; a boffin tasked with trying to rescue Australia’s power grid from imminent collapse, the consequence of loading it up with intermittent, chaotic and erratic wind and solar power.

Some see Finkel as the Great White Hope.

STT will reserve its judgement on that matter: bright and shiny ideas are one thing, implementing them over a pack of rabid, salivating rent-seekers out to prevent you from doing so is…

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H/T GWPF

Is solar power in terminal decline in Europe, as subsidies and public enthusiasm dwindle?

Germany’s SolarWorld, once Europe’s biggest solar power equipment group, said on Wednesday it would file for insolvency, overwhelmed by Chinese rivals who had long been a thorn in the side of founder and CEO Frank Asbeck, once known as “the Sun King”.

SolarWorld was one of the few German solar power companies to survive a major crisis at the turn of the decade, caused by a glut in production of panels that led prices to fall and peers to collapse, including Q-Cells, Solon and Conergy.

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One thing the Sun has in common with the planets is rotation. ‘Rossby waves, also known as planetary waves, are a natural phenomenon in the atmosphere and oceans of planets that largely owe their properties to rotation of the planet.’ – Wikipedia. New evidence shows these type of waves also exist on the Sun.

Our sun is a chaotic place, simmering with magnetic energy and constantly spewing out particles. Sometimes the sun releases solar flares and coronal mass ejections — huge eruptions of charged particles — which contribute to space weather and can interfere with satellites and telecommunications on Earth.

While it has long been hard to predict such events, new research has uncovered a mechanism that may help forecasting these explosions, reports ScienceDaily. The research finds a phenomenon similar to a common weather system seen on our own planet. Weather on Earth reacts to the influence of jet streams, which blow air in narrow currents around the globe. These atmospheric currents are a type of Rossby wave, movements driven by the planet’s rotation.

Using comprehensive imaging of the entire sun with data from the NASA heliophysics Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory — STEREO — and Solar Dynamics Observatory — SDO — scientists have now found proof of Rossby waves on the sun.
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Quiet sun [image credit: NASA]


Solar variation influencing climate is suddenly plausible, say researchers. Who knew? Well, nearly everyone except climate modellers. Although they still mutter about human influence, the reality of the solar slowdown is starting to bite it seems. If as they suggest ‘A weaker sun could reduce temperatures by half a degree’ what might they expect from a ‘stronger sun’?

For the first time, model calculations show a plausible way that fluctuations in solar activity could have a tangible impact on the climate, reports Phys.org.

Studies funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation expect human-induced global warming to tail off slightly over the next few decades. A weaker sun could reduce temperatures by half a degree.
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Artist’s impression of Dogger Bank island [credit: The Independent]


The construction agreement is planned to be signed on 23 March 2017, reports The Independent.

A vast artificial island is to be built at Dogger Bank in the North Sea, complete with a harbour, airstrip and homes, to help provide a vast new supply of renewable energy, under plans drawn up by two companies with the blessing of the European Union.

The North Sea Wind Power Hub would act as a hub for offshore wind turbines and a new place to put solar panels, according to the German and Dutch arms of electricity firm TenneT and Danish company Energinet. The firms will sign a deal creating a consortium to develop the plan further in Brussels on 23 March in the presence of European Energy Union Commissioner, Maos Sefcovic.

Torben Glar Nielsen, Energinet’s Danish technical director, said: “Maybe it sounds a bit crazy and science fiction-like, but an island on Dogger Bank could make the wind power of the future a lot cheaper and more effective.”
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Solar activity [image credit: NASA]

Solar activity [image credit: NASA]


A tough question on the face of it, but the researchers claim to have unearthed a ‘new type of solar event’ based on evidence from one tree (according to this report).
H/T oldmanK

Nagoya, Japan – An international team led by researchers at Nagoya University, along with US and Swiss colleagues, has identified a new type of solar event and dated it to the year 5480 BC; they did this by measuring carbon-14 levels in tree rings, which reflect the effects of cosmic radiation on the atmosphere at the time, as Scienmag reports.

They have also proposed causes of this event, thereby extending knowledge of how the sun behaves. When the activity of the sun changes, it has direct effects on the earth.

For example, when the sun is relatively inactive, the amount of a type of carbon called carbon-14 increases in the earth’s atmosphere. Because carbon in the air is absorbed by trees, carbon-14 levels in tree rings actually reflect solar activity and unusual solar events in the past.

The team took advantage of such a phenomenon by analyzing a specimen from a bristlecone pine tree, a species that can live for thousands of years, to look back deep into the history of the sun.
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Credit: Imperial College London

Credit: Imperial College London


A small team of researchers with the University of Hawaii, Ponta Grossa State University in Brazil and Stanford University has found what they believe is the reason that the surface of the sun rotates more slowly than its core, reports Phys.org.

In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the team explains how they used a new technique to measure the speed of the sun’s rotation at different depths and what it revealed about the speed of the sun’s outer 70km deep skin.

Scientists have known for some time that the surface of the sun spins more slowly than its interior but have no good explanation for it. In this new effort, the researchers were able to take a better look at what was occurring and by doing so discovered what they believe is the source of the slowdown.
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Northern Lights illuminate sky over UK [image credit: BBC]

Northern Lights illuminate sky over UK [image credit: BBC]


‘We could see these changes occurring as early as the next few decades’, say the researchers.

Britain may lose the magic of the Northern Lights by the middle of the century due to major shifts in solar activity, scientists have discovered.

Space scientists at the University of Reading conclude that plummeting solar activity will shrink the overall size of the sun’s ‘atmosphere’ by a third and weaken its protective influence on the Earth, reports Phys.org.

This could make the Earth more vulnerable to technology-destroying solar blasts and cancer-causing cosmic radiation, as well as making the aurora less common away from the north and south polar regions for 50 years or more.
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Petrified log at Petrified Forest National Park, AZ [image credit: Jon Sullivan / Wikipedia]

Petrified log at Petrified Forest National Park, AZ
[image credit: Jon Sullivan / Wikipedia]


They seem to base their estimates of the past solar cycle length on a study of only 79 years’ worth of data which is almost certainly too short for high accuracy, but the results are interesting nevertheless.

A pair of German researchers has found evidence in ancient tree rings of a solar sunspot cycle millions of years ago similar to the one observed in more modern times, reports Phys.org.

In their paper published in the journal Geology, Ludwig Luthardt and Ronny Rößler describe how they gathered an assortment of petrified tree samples from a region in Germany and used them to count sunspot cycles.

Scientists know that the sun undergoes a sunspot cycle of approximately 11 years—some spots appear, grow cooler and then slowly move toward the equator and eventually disappear—the changes to the sun spots cause changes to the brightness level of the sun—as the level waxes and wanes, plants here on Earth respond, growing more or less in a given year—this can be seen in the width of tree rings.

In this new effort, the researchers gathered petrified tree samples from a region of Germany that was covered by lava during a volcanic eruption approximately 290 million years ago (during the Permian period), offering a historical record of sun activity.
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Winter solstice sunrise at the historic site in Sicily [image credit: Giuseppe La Spina]

Winter solstice sunrise at the historic site in Sicily [image credit: Giuseppe La Spina]


A team of researchers exploring the southern coast of Sicily have found an intriguing prehistoric calendar rock, reports Ancient Origins.

After conducting some empirical observations, they discovered the rising sun of the winter solstice aligns perfectly with a large hole in a rock formation on a hill near a prehistoric necropolis.

They also discovered a fallen megalith that would have stood directly in front of the hole. Stonehenge-like comparisons abound in the media.
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