Kunjalo - it is so!

The CiAO Space Weather Snapshot is a "static" view of a few interesting data channels which are available via the real-time CiAO data tracking and observation network. The images are refreshed every 10 minutes presently and require browser refresh. The associated CiAO application itself is a real-time multichannel tracking system/service which allows channel selection and forwards data as it becomes available.

Bang! - imagine a large gunpowder bomb exploding. From a safe vantage point one would first see the flash of the explosion and a little later the shrapnel flying by. Solar flares are akin to a flash of "light" in the xray band and the shrapnel to matter (plasma) which is blasted off the surface of the sun by coronal mass ejections (cme's) or flowing from coronal holes. And since the sun is a fair way away the delay in arrival of the two is in the order of 1 to 2 days depending on the size of the event. The flare is recorded in nearby earth space within 8 minutes as X-ray radiation and the charged matter arrives within days. None of the radiation in the X-ray frequency band penetrates to ground level and not all flares blast large amounts of matter off the sun - this is essentially left to cme's which sometimes co-incide with a flare. CME'shave to occur in a specific region of the sun - the geo-effective region - otherwise the "bits and pieces" that have been expelled by the event simply miss us here on earth.

It is in the 1 to 2 days delay that many opportunities for adventure are created. For one - you know it is coming once you have observed the right sized flash from the right spot on the sun. Predicting the exact arrival time has parallels in terrestrial weather forecasting such as timing the arrival of frontal weather in Cape Town. Different things are at stake however.

There are very few probes along the 150 million kilometers from the sun to the earth and the data we will be looking at comes from probes at 1.5 million kilometers from earth. An important satellite in that region was an old NOAA workhorse appropriately called ACE - now replaced by a satellite named DSCOVR. Once observed there it takes 30 to 45 minutes to sensing the effect on earth and the possibility of solar energy coupling into terrestrial grid systems.