Radio Amateurs & Skywatchers Rejoice, Sat Operators Worry: Solar Storm Incoming

How do you look back over your life and divide it up? Maybe by decades, cultural moments, or geopolitical events. For radio amateurs with older callsigns there’s a temptation to do so by solar cycles, as the roughly 11-year period of the Sun’s activity had a huge effect on radio propagation through the charge it creates in the upper atmosphere. We’re now in solar cycle 25, numbered since the 18th century when the science of solar observation began, and as never before we’re surrounded by information from experts such as [Dr. Tamitha Skov], the so-called [Space Weather Woman]. When she says something is on the way we listen, so a recent Tweet predicting a direct hit from a solar storm with a good probability of auroras in lower latitudes is very much worth sharing.

We must extend our commiserations to readers in equatorial climes and ever through the lower half of the USA, southern Europe, the Middle East, India, Japan, and China. You won’t see the aurora we’ll catch in Europe along with our friends in New Zealand, Canada, Russia, and northern USA. But even then to those of us at moderate latitudes an aurora is a pretty rare event, so we’re hoping for clear skies on the 2nd of February and would advise you to look out too if you’re in the likely zone even if they won’t be quite as impressive as those in our header picture. Meanwhile radio amateurs everywhere don’t have to see pretty lights in the sky to reap the benefits in terms of propagation, so happy DX hunting! The Tweet is embedded below the break, so you can play the timeline for yourselves.

Header image: United States Air Force, Senior Airman Joshua Strang, Public domain.

23 thoughts on “Radio Amateurs & Skywatchers Rejoice, Sat Operators Worry: Solar Storm Incoming

  1. ice core data is revealing strong evidence of past solar storms
    that are orders of magnitude larger than anything observed
    in modern times,ie 1600’s to present.we still have no idea of
    how large a solar storm can get,the largest documented.was
    just over 9000 years ago,with another 7000 odd years ago.
    one of the effects of a solar storm is that the acompanying
    magnetic fields try and turn the grid into a giant motor winding,
    which it was not designed for.
    thanks for the heads up,clear skys in atlantic canada tonight

    1. Well Carrington event is a well documented recent one.
      It only touched telegraph and pre-grid power network, so things could only be worse.
      Quebec magnetic storm of 1989 also applies, but on a smaller scale.

      1. Pipelines are another concern. They are typically bigger chunks of metal than power lines. Physical disconnects for pipelines aren’t a thing either, compared to power distribution systems.

    1. Same, Michigan is going to experience the start of heavy snow Wednesday morning with estimated of up to over a foot by Thursday evening. No sun since early Monday morning and not likely until Friday evening

  2. Batten down the hatches. I hope we don’t get another power outage like in 1989. Ihad to wait for someone before I could go home, so it was 11pm or midnight, and and no street or traffic lights.

    Don’t forget, bouncing signals off the auroras is a thing.

    1. If you want to be absolutely sure: put them in a box made of metal until the storm passes. Though it has been a very long time since we last had a solar storm powerful enough for it to be a problem.

    2. Easiest thing to do is turn things off.
      Best thing to do is break the circuit by taking out the battery, but that is less and less possible on modern electronics. (Bring back replaceable batteries!)

      Realistically, if anything very large did happen, whatever you did for yourself is moot because grid failures are much more difficult to repair than just buying a new phone or widget.

      1. “grid failures are much more difficult to repair than just buying a new phone or widget”

        That’s like saying “let’s you and him fight!” You’re saying “Let’s you spend some money that you may or may not have.”

        Summer’s Eve.

        1. OP is trying to say that if your mobile phone is toasted, so will the mobile network itself, and the electricity grid, and the rest of the telecoms network as well. that is to say, most of modern society won’t be working.
          It’ll be more a case of worrying if you have enough clean water and food rather than being bothered about your iphone being broken.

    1. Yesterday from here in Cape town I spoke with Austria, Slovenia and Italy on 14.200 mhz (20m) with just a long wire in my garden and 100w of RF. Incredible. 73 DE Chris ZS1CDG

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