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Sun Storms May Affect Radios, Cell Phones Today

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the going-once-going-twice-sol dept.

Communications 50

ABC News is one of various news outlets reporting that "Intense solar activity may affect Earth today, potentially disrupting radio and cell phone frequencies." (The Space Weather Prediction Center calls the likely effects minor, but it might be a good day to have an atlas packed in with the GPS.)

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Always a great excuse (5, Funny)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 2 years ago | (#38525990)

When working in IT, whenever I would encounter a weird networking problem that I couldn't immediately identify, I'd suggest maybe it had something to do with sunspot activity. This usually got the affected people scratching their heads long enough that I could concentrate on actually working on the problem instead of listening to them asking me what the problem was.

Re:Always a great excuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38526066)

You must work with some really dumb people.

Re:Always a great excuse (2)

idbeholda (2405958) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526114)

What do you think the "I" in IT stands for?

Re:Always a great excuse (4, Funny)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526280)

Internet.

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38526440)

and the T stands for "inTernet"

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38527638)

Things.

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

idbeholda (2405958) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526658)

Well played, sir. Well played indeed.

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

Quanticfx (2443904) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526104)

I have a feeling I would get called out on that instantly and it would create even more questions, but then again most of the non-IT people I work with are engineers are and highly technical.

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526274)

Just because they're engineers and good at their specialty doesn't mean they're good with IT. Some are much better than the average user, but it's definitely more of an outlier and not the norm.

It all goes back to the "tell them what they need to know and more only if they can comprehend it" part of IT anyway.

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526514)

Sunspots affect more than just IT. If you said "sunspots are playing havoc with our network" to an electrical engineer, you'd probably give him a nervous breakdown.

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38527888)

The correct response would be "Electromagnetic Interference" which could be the results of Sunspot Activity.

Re:Always a great excuse (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38526206)

That's funny, until you actually encounter sub-standard shielding in memory at high altitudes...
Then it actually IS sunspots that cause the system to fail...

Re:Always a great excuse (5, Interesting)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526540)

I work in IT for a large cab company in California.
When I get to work in the morning. I log in, check server status, check status of 4 different radio sites, then I go to spaceweather.com to check sunspot activity.
With 300 Cabs running around with mobile radios and GPS there is just a lot that can go bad. Better to know.

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

bobdole369 (267463) | more than 2 years ago | (#38527524)

Have you ever had a geo-storm actually cause issues up in VHF (or are they UHF radios?)

Re:Always a great excuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38528376)

Running 4 transmit and 4 receive channels right now between 450Mhz and toping out around 512Mhz. With hills, multiple sites, stupid drivers, and the tunning issues getting antennas tuned to do all well with a single antenna there are always issues. But I have never actually been able to track down a particular problem as having surely been created by solar activity.

Re:Always a great excuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38538178)

The MUF (maximum useable frequency) will never ever get up to anywhere near UHF frequencies, its only the past 3 months (or so) since the 28Mhz band has started 'working' properly again ( refracting radio signals back down to earth - thus enabling worldwide communication ) otherwise, as has been the case in the years of low solar activity, the signals generally speaking, just fly off into space, unblemished, or are absorbed. very much more likely at VHF / UHF frequencies are several more local ( lower-atmosphere ) effects such as ' tropospheric ducting ' which is mainly a warm weather phenomenon, associated with temperature inversions in the atmosphere - acting like ' conduits ' for radio waves, there is a phenomenon called ' sporadic - E ' - with the 'E' referring to the ' E ' layer in the outer atmosphere, but these are, as the name suggests, unpredictable, seasonable, but can enhance the lower VHF bands and up, something like 26mhz say, upto, and very occasionally beyond, 150 mhz .. so any look on spaceweather at the solar flux levels etc. will have little impact on your channels between 450Mhz and 512Mhz.
Much better (more pertinent) to VHF / UHF users is something like this - choose your part of the world :)

http://www.dxinfocentre.com/tropo.html

a group of us chat on 28.495 mhz SSB evenings, and the solarcycle is much more interest,
if we used 144 mhz i guess the above link would be worth checking..

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

na1led (1030470) | more than 2 years ago | (#38527852)

I blame things on Static, Sunspot Activity, and Random Anomolies!

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38531268)

Yeah I do the same thing except I paraphrase. I just say 'shit happens'.

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

fragfoo (2018548) | more than 2 years ago | (#38528020)

This explains why my WIFI signal was so shitty this morning.

Re:Always a great excuse (2)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#38528382)

C'mon ... at least cite the original material. From BOFH #6 [ntk.net] :

It's friday, so I get into work early, before lunch even. The phone rings. Shit!

I turn the page on the excuse sheet. "SOLAR FLARES" stares out at me. I'd better read up on that. Two minutes later I'm ready to answer the phone.

"Hello?" I say.

"WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, I'VE BEEN TRYING TO GET YOU ALL MORNING?!"

I hate it when they shout at me early in the morning. It always puts me in a bad mood. You know what I mean.

"Ah, yes. Well, there's been some solar activity this morning, it always disrupts electronics..." I say, sweet as a sugar pie.

"Huh? But I could get through to my friends?!"

"Yes, that's entirely possible, solar activity is very unpredictable in it's effects. Why last week, we had some files just dissappear from a guys account while he was working on it!"

"Really?"

"Straight Up! Hey, do you want me to check your account?"

"Yes please, I've got some important stuff in there!"

"Ok, what's your username..."

He tells me. Honestly, it's like shooting a fish in a barrel. Twice. With an Elephant Gun. At point blank range. In the head.

(Do I really need to tell you the clicky clicky bit?.. I think not)

"How many files are in your account?" I ask

"Um, well there should be about 20 in my thesis writeup, 10 or so with the data for it, and another 20 or so in a book that I'm writing"

"Hmmm. Well, I think we caught it just in time. You've still got 2 files left... .cshrc and .login"

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaggggggggghhhh!"

He sobs into the receiver a bit - it really turns my stomach.

Now, in my case, as I work at the Solar Data Analysis Center, and most of the folks I work with have phds in solar physics, astronomy or similar, the excuse just doesn't work. (and my boss reads BOFH)

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38564110)

as I work at the Solar Data Analysis Center, and most of the folks I work with have phds in solar physics, astronomy or similar, the excuse just doesn't work. (and my boss reads BOFH)

Could be worse.

Actually, that's likely to be a pretty good sign. If your boss reads and enjoys the Good Bastard, then it's likely that s/he has a functioning sense of humour. which is a good start.

Meanwhile ... I haven't read any Bastard for weeks, and I feel the need ...

Re:Always a great excuse (1)

Rolgar (556636) | more than 2 years ago | (#38529396)

Did you used to work for the US Postal Service? When the USPS went to DHCP about 7 years ago, our DHCP pool ran out of addresses within a year. One day, I couldn't get get RIS to connect in order to install Windows. After a while, we released an address from a PC and it worked perfectly, and the other machine couldn't get an address again. Our system administrator had to call and the first thing out of the guy's mouth was about sunspots or solar flares. It was about all our SA could do not to blow his top!! I even got him years later by having the new help desk guy (my replacement) ask him if he'd ever heard of sunspots causing DHCP problems.

Re:Always a great excuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38529924)

I used to wonder why so many people worried about sunspots. Good way to deflect the idiots.

Re:Always a great excuse (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38536976)

I'm not saying it was solar flares but...
*Picture of Tom Cruise*
It was solar flares.

Atlas (5, Funny)

Artea (2527062) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526132)

I hope the commercial airlines hear about this and inform their pilots of bring an atlas!

Re:Atlas (1)

oneiros27 (46144) | more than 2 years ago | (#38528300)

Maybe not all, but they do inform pilots who are flying across the poles -- the Earth's magnetic field deflects some space weather, but ends up concentrating the stuff at the poles (which is why the Northern/Southern Lights are strongest near the poles)

The result is that many pilots won't fly those routes, instead taking other routes which often require an extra stop for refueling, or reducing the amount of luggage (to be brought later).

So if you're planning on a trip that's to the other hemisphere, odds are, you're looking at delays and/or lost baggage.

Re:Atlas (1)

QQBoss (2527196) | more than 2 years ago | (#38534828)

Maybe not all, but they do inform pilots who are flying across the poles -- the Earth's magnetic field deflects some space weather, but ends up concentrating the stuff at the poles (which is why the Northern/Southern Lights are strongest near the poles)

The result is that many pilots won't fly those routes, instead taking other routes which often require an extra stop for refueling, or reducing the amount of luggage (to be brought later).

So if you're planning on a trip that's to the other hemisphere, odds are, you're looking at delays and/or lost baggage.

Commercial pilots have little leeway over the routes they fly, so your statement that pilots avoid flying polar routes doesn't seem based on valid information. A better reason why polar routes aren't flown is because FAA rules require that planes never be further than a certain distance (referred to as ETOPS XXX, where XXX is the number of minutes flight time) from an airport where they can land in an emergency. Until Santa Claus opens up North Pole Field for international arrivals and departures, there just aren't many places in the Great White North where you can land a fully loaded jumbo jet year round.

However, the rules are changing. Just in time for Christmas, Santa's shortcut was green-lighted (though, should be red-lighted in Rudolf's honor).

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/airlines-cleared-to-use-santas-shortcut-6281263.html [independent.co.uk]

You lost? (5, Funny)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526158)

You need a damn GPS to find your way home now?

Re:You lost? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38527712)

You obviously don't drink.

Re:You lost? (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 2 years ago | (#38527862)

Not just home. I installed a radio-transparent roof so I could get a solid lock all the way to the fridge.

Aroura Borealis? (2)

DigitalSorceress (156609) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526396)

My first thought is "I wonder if I should be on the lookout for a good Aurora Borealis tonight."

Being that I'm in New England, the only times in my life I've seent the "Northern Lights" have been subsequent to a strong CME / Solar flare like this. /gets camera ready just in case

Re:Aroura Borealis? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38538042)

I shall be grateful to you, if the following information can be provided to me through e-mail. If you have some information (1) the date (and time if known) of Solar flare and (2) the date (time, if known) of colorful auroras. Also please send me photographs of colorful auroras mentioning the name of photographer. This provides a very valuable scientific information. Time delay between solar flare and colorful auroras pinpoints that solar X-rays and gamma rays etc travel faster than fission products that create auroras in reaching Earth.

Please view my comment in: More Auroras Linked to Increased Solar Activity
http://news.softpedia.com/news/More-Auroras-Linked-to-Increased-Solar-Activity-150301.shtml

Most colorful auroras seen at the North Pole might be direct evidence from nature to Padmanabha Rao Effect causing optical emission from radioisotopes. Possibly, along with cosmic rays even fission fragments (radioisotopes) may be abundantly reaching to North and South poles. Depending upon the ionizing radiation energy of gamma, beta or X-ray the colors are formed in auroras. Low ionizing radiation energy may cause an aurora displaying dominant EUV, UV and violet along with low visible light and infrared radiations. However, if the energy is relatively high, aurora may show bright yellow, green, and blue colors besides infrared radiation, with low EUV and UV intensity. Colorful auroras might suggest that light and heat are partly from fission products (radioisotopes) reaching Earth.

M.A.Padmanabha Rao, PhD (AIIMS)
raomap@yahoo.com
http://www.angelfire.com/sc3/1010/XUV-Linked-to-Bharat-Radiation.html

MS OOB update.. same day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38526520)

Is this prelude to an invasion?

Um...NO!! (4, Informative)

launchpad72 (1731134) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526548)

I was a weather forecaster in the USAF and just looked at the Solar Weather page and there are "NO" alerts and "NO" large solar activity. If you read the ABC page it is just a 20-40% chance was from a report Monday. Has FOX news bought this website?

Re:Um...NO!! (1)

bobdole369 (267463) | more than 2 years ago | (#38527544)

There was an earthward CME, but it packed no punch. Not many particles are making it.

Blackout? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38526724)

I've been following and studying the Sun's behavior and the related space weather long enough to be able to say that it looks like nothing will happen. You'd be very unlucky to find yourself in a radio blackout. I would scale the geomagnetic activity between "nothing" and "quite calm" (which is also what ABC is saying, without understanding it).

It's one of those "slow news day, lets create some false panic" again.

Alert has been downgraded (3, Insightful)

mahiskali (1410019) | more than 2 years ago | (#38526918)

Chance is now about 20% for 29 December [spaceweather.com] . This ABC article is a bit alarmist and unnecessarily scaring the masses.

Re:Alert has been downgraded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38527512)

Alarmist? What are you, some kind of sunspot denier?

Re:Alert has been downgraded (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38533472)

Nothing ever comes of these warnings. Electronics will fail! Mayhem will ensue! And then nothing. It's a bit disappointing.

slow news day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38527380)

must be a really slow news day for them to pick up on that. The predicted geomagnetic storm is expected 'minor' and relatively short lived. There should be no effects on cell phones since those are very short range and do not rely on the ionosphere. There may be some minor effects on gps signals that do have to go through the ionosphere, but for critical users like aircraft and ship navigation those should be easily corrected by the ground references they use to correct for satellite errors anyway. the most likely effects are disruption of some short wave bands and some interesting auroral propagation on lower vhf bands that ham radio operators may enjoy. watch for visible aurora at higher latitudes if tonight is clear. for more info watch: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/today.html

Re:slow news day? (1)

doccus (2020662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38535968)

Well hey, cry wolf enough, and when we actually *do* get the 'Big one" nobody'll have unplugged anything in time ...

No (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38527486)

Shouldn't that be an ORACLE storm...?

re: sun storm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38529128)

and I thought the solar storms only affected the shortwave radio frequencies like from 1 MHz to 26 MHz. I didn't know that they could affect 900 MHz radio band that mobile phones use. Yes, I still use an old G2 phone. It doesn't even have 1800 MHz. lol

but seriously, thanks for sharing the article

Has anyone felt the flares' effect? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38529436)

Anyone of you here read any posts or tweets on disruptions or anything? This is really interesting to know.

Thank you! (1)

celtic_hackr (579828) | more than 2 years ago | (#38530106)

Thank you Captain Obvious!

I realize this is /., but really how is this news?

Solar storms can interfere with radio signals, who knew?
Oh, anyone who ever paid attention in middle school science class.

And this on a supposedly geek "newsite".

Sheesh!

Re:Thank you! (1)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | more than 2 years ago | (#38530324)

Are you trolling, or are you feeling pissy but are unsure of who to be angry at? The article was about current solar flares. The mention here is not to suggest that we don't know about solar flares, but to tell us that current solar flares are intense enough to be potentially disruptive.

Your rant is rather like going to wunderground and getting pissed that they're telling you it's going to snow today because we all know what snow is.

It's not true! (1)

derfy (172944) | more than 2 years ago | (#38530664)

It's just millions of people calling us and saying that, yes they will help The Doctor.

Old News (1)

stamour547 (734298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38532806)

I know that not everyone knows this, but this is pretty old news to us Amateur Radio operators. We have know that solar activity effects radio propogation for what must seem like forever... Just saying.

Ham bone .. (1)

Randy_Leatherbelly (1983850) | more than 2 years ago | (#38538202)

Indeed the sun does have the main impact on the 'usability' of some bits of the radio spectrum, as do seasons, the time of day, locations, receiver interference, (man made or natural) but there's plenty of other factors too. My main worrys are (as far as the sun and our electrical systems are concerned are) Satellites, as more and more, formerly terrestrial communications are now becoming space based, these are likely going to be the first items to ' cook ' - yes i know they can 'harden' them, but the systems that civilization depends upon, rely's upon them, and as far as i am concerned, no reason is good enough for critical systems to internet-linked. lets talk system redundancy vs. single points of failure. I will just say i think the mass media's reporting of these 'The sky is falling' type of stories are disingenuous, apocryphal, or just plain lazy reporting, at best. - it seems to be that there is a all too-ready market, and indeed an increase in 'doomsday' type reporting in recent years, what with terrorists 'round every corner, global warming, asteroids, alien invasions, bird flu, aids, sars, whooping cough, boils, etc and FUD being spread like manure on a windy day, you get the picture...

Indeed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38555686)

My car radio reception was indeed very bad today. Its usually ok, and I'm always on the same station.

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