Big solar storm (G4) is likely tonight and through the weekend

It’s a good weekend to disconnect any sensitive equipment from power, and go enjoy outdoors. There could be some communication outages (especially satellite) and a few power outages and surges–not necessarily surges that UPS and surge protectors can deal with gracefully. GPS could also be affected, so don’t count on it for anything important.

Be sure to go outside in the dark (if you’re lucky enough to have any dark) and check for auroras. Past G4 storms have had auroras visible as far south as northern california.

https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/alerts-watches-and-warnings

https://www.spaceweather.gov/

https://forecast.weather.gov/showsigwx.php?warnzone=WAZ558&warncounty=WAC033&firewxzone=WAZ654&local_place1=2%20Miles%20WSW%20North%20Seattle%20WA&product1=Special+Weather+Statement&lat=47.6925&lon=-122.3632

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Friend just texted some nice shots of the Aurora in Michigan tonight. (Nothing here but the neighbors light pollution, sigh).

I’m in Oregon up in the hills away from light pollution and I just went out to see what I could see. My view is the northern sky. With the naked eye I could only see a few faint streaks. Definitely something unusual.

But I held up my iPhone camera and wow, colors galore! There’s something about the colors that the the phone can see that the human eye can’t. It’s incredible!

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The geomagnetic storm could last until Monday - it is one of the strongest in decades. It could zap some electronics, including satellites (GPS?)

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My friend reported the same thing. My brother also just south in the foothills.

Could be a time for a short dark sky road trip!

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Seen in Florida and Puerto Rico!

My son Tristan reported the same thing from Vancouver. Alas, it was cloudy here.

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Could the storm damage disconnected SSDs? What about connected SSDs?

“Could the storm damage disconnected SSDs?”

Vanishingly unlikely, if it’s fully disconnected–not connected to power, or to a computer that’s plugged in (even if turned off).

“What about connected SSDs?”

Very unlikely, though not impossible. The main risk for normal people is a big power surge leading to an outage. Think a lighting-like surge, but potentially bigger and longer duration. The power infrastructure, in principle, will shut down before that hits customers, but they can’t always. The sun is too energetic for mere humans to outwit completely even if the infrastructure was perfect.

I disconnected my backup drives just on the off chance, since losing a few days of puttering is inconsequential, but it’s been too long since I’ve done an off site backup so I don’t want any risk to my main backups. I’m trying to convince myself to disconnect all of the computers just so I’ll have to do more analog things, but that’s a much harder sell…

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I am too close to Portland to see any aurora. How far up in the hills are you?

I am at 800-ft elevation, about an hour south of Portland in wine country.

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Although my colors and patterns aren’t nearly as impressive as others’ photos, I was very surprised to capture anything in northern Alabama. I went out at 4 AM, thanks to my dog needing out, I set my iPhone 13 to Night mode and pointed it at what appeared to me to be an empty dark sky. As the experts explained, the camera can capture things that the eye can’t see. By examining the EXIF data on the photo I discovered my iPhone had taken four 1-second shots and combined them to create this image. I did not make any adjustments to the image before posting it here. It’s proof that the aurora, which I had never expected to see, made it to Alabama.

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I didn’t see any auroras (too much light pollution here), but I did experience one weird thing.

On Saturday morning and afternoon, my home’s smoke detectors (which are all wired together so when one alarms, they all do), had several false alarms. Two in the morning and four in the afternoon.

In all cases, the alarm only lasted for a second or two. And the status LEDs (used to identify which unit generated the alarm) all indicated “not me”. Meaning every unit thought the alarm was generated by one of the other units.

There have been no such problems prior to this. And there has been nothing from later Saturday afternoon until now.

I am concluding that some aspect of the geomagnetic event interfered with the signals the detectors use to communicate with each other. Since it’s just a run of unshielded copper wire running through my walls and ceiling linking the units, I suspect it acted as an antenna of some kind and random fluctuations from the geomagnetic event momentarily resembled the signal used by the detectors to communicate with each other.

Did anyone else experience something like this?

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Yes. My weather sensor package (Ambient 1200WS) was knocked offline on Friday evening. I’m going to have to climb up to the roof and retrieve it to get it synchronized with its router and display again (presuming it’s not fried but just went whack).

I also had a temperature sensor for a separate monitoring system go offline on Sunday, but it recovered itself by this morning.

Both systems are wireless, and I believe they use 900 mHz band to communicate.

Thinking about your smoke detectors…we have a similar setup. The interesting thing is that the unshielded copper wire is also ungrounded as it doesn’t carry AC current and is not connected to our electrical system. So a transient current could very well have been generated and tripped the smoke alarms, primarily because there was no other place for that current to go.

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Oh that’s interesting! My outdoor sensor went offline, and I think that happened yesterday too, but it could have been Saturday. I figured it was the battery but I know I just did that a few months ago. The displays are working inside but I lost outdoor temp, humidity and wind.

Diane

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Here’s another interesting (and not too amusing for the people affected) story:

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So not just pretty lights!
It has been cloudy in Eastern Australia for over a week so I missed the opportunity to see the aurora.

I helped my son launch a hobby weather balloon on Saturday. He put a tracker in it that uses GPS for positioning and a satellite network to report its position. It correctly reported being at the launch site, but went silent once launched. Then, four hours later, it started reporting again. Most likely, GPS and/or the satellite backhaul failed due to the storm.

Starlink reportedly had some problems as well.

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Another marker, more interesting: around 2 p.m. yesterday I heard something start buzzing. I tracked it down to my bathroom counter. My electric shaver (a Braun, in a cleaning/charging station) had spontaneously started cleaning and charging.

I’d expect that if the power had failed and been restored, but it had not. Another transient reaction.

More solar storms on the way?