Posts Tagged ‘solar’

Solar flare stops satellites in China

// February 17th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Science at Home

Solar Flare

Recent Solar Flare. Image by NASA

A solar flare the size of Jupiter erupted a few days ago and is now causing radio and satellite signals to drop out in China.

On Valentine’s Day, the sun had a coronal mass ejection associated with a flare, a burst of solar wind that speeds through space.

The ejected material is usually plasma and electrons, though sometimes helium and oxygen are also expelled. It was an X-class, the highest of all classes.

Let’s just enjoy for a moment the phrases Valentine’s Day, coronal mass ejection and X-class.

Anyway, the flare headed to Earth at 900 km per second, and the shockwave of it hitting us has caused a geomagnetic storm that messes with magnets.

It can also cause stunning auroral colours, like the Northern Lights, which have already been seen further south than usual. NASA is warning the flares will keep coming for a couple of days.

Long-lasting solar storms can cause electricity grids to stop working, causing black outs. Much of our technology is dependent on magnets – phones, credit cards, even hard discs when in use. One of my pet apocalypse theories is that a solar flare, or other strong magnetic space event, will wipe out computers and take with them electricity, water and money.

But clearly if your reading this, that hasn’t happened. So just continue to enjoy the phrase coronal mass ejection. Lolz.

Solar powered laptop bags and handbags

// August 5th, 2010 // 7 Comments » // Science Art, Science at Home

Voltaic Generator Bag

Winter sun is something worth enjoying. Spreading out lizardlike and soaking up UV rays to make Vitamin D is an excellent endeavour. I often take my laptop out with me and blog in the sunlight.

Today as I was doing just that, my laptop started complaining about low charge. It made me wonder if you could solar power your laptop. Turns out you can.

You can have a panel on just about anything. Most only charge small devices like a phone, but you can have one on your desk, one on your bike, or even one on your hat (powering a small fan which spins faster as it gets more sun.)

The one pictured is a laptop bag with solar panels on the front, and it’s capable of charging a laptop. They charge a battery inside the bag, which you can run your laptop on.

Solar Handbag

I did a bit more snooping, and I found some fashionable handbags that do a similar job. These were sold on auction in mid July (one of a kind, probably couldn’t have afforded them anyway), and feature sexy solar panels that can charge your ipod, camera or phone as you walk.

It’s part of the portable light project, which has sadly finished. They create flexible photovoltaic textiles for use in developing countries. The material lends itself to traditional weaving and sewing, so people can incorporate the technology into their own culture. Open source electricity.

The solar units charge during the day, and at night work as lamps. They also have a USB port to charge phones, making it easier for traveling artists to connect with stores or midwives to seek clinic advice and diagnosis.

A mighty fine endeavour, but I’d be happy with something that quickly charged my iPod nano because he has problems. It leaks charge all over the joint like a poorly toilet trained puppy. I leave it switched off and locked in my bag, and next time I try to use it, it’s gone to Davey Jones locker. Perhaps it be time to update to an iPhone…

Solar powered plane flies through the night

// July 12th, 2010 // 1 Comment » // Recent Research

Solar Plane Up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane… well yes it’s a plane. A solar powered plane.

Last week Solar Impulse flew their prototype plane through the night for the first time. The trip lasted over 26 hours, gathering and storing energy during the day. With 12% efficiency and rationing energy to last the night, the plane has eight horse power to run on. That’s about the same as the Wright brothers had in 1903.

It’s the first night flight ever by a solar powered plane, and in 2013 they plan to go round the world in five stages lasting several days at a time. Their goal is a non-stop round the world flight. Before they can do it, they need to improve battery storage to support the weight of two pilots. At the moment it’s a one man show, and round the world in one go would involve some serious sleep deprivation.

New images of the sun from NASA’s SDO

// April 25th, 2010 // 4 Comments » // Just for Fun, Recent Research

The SunThis is one of the first images sent to Earth from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) last week. The SDO satellite collects data and images of the sun, producing enough material to fill a CD every 36 seconds.

Most satellites share ground stations, but because of the monster processing power needed to store all this data, the SDO has one all to itself. Located in New Mexico, the ground station is in constant communication with the satellite. The satellite is in geosynchronous orbit, which means it rotates at the same speed as Earth and is always directly above the ground station.

In its voyage of five years, the SDO hopes to understand how and why the sun’s magnetic field changes. From that they hope to predict the solar winds near Earth, which can have drastic effects on technology. They might also learn to forecast the weather in space, potentially lifesaving for astronauts.

The images it has received so far are stunning. Even if the SDO doesn’t unveil all the mysteries of the sun, the mission will not be a failure. Click through for more images from the SDO.






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