Hacker News Re-Imagined

Unexpected solar weather is accelerating satellites' orbital decay

  • 83 points
  • 6 hours ago

  • @lelf
  • Created a post

Unexpected solar weather is accelerating satellites' orbital decay


@rcardo11 4 hours

Replying to @lelf 🎙

I'm wondering if this solar cycle can be a reason for the recent wild summer temperatures? Anyone here can confirm?

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@daltont 4 hours

Replying to @lelf 🎙

Hyperbolic headlines plus the fact the people tend to not read anything except the headline (a form Lem's law IMO) is part of the disinformation problem.

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@FunnyBadger 2 hours

Replying to @lelf 🎙

This is simply part of the solar cycle. And it's a standard part of satellite planning when it comes to operational quality and reliability to account for solar cycle radiation effects.

This is an ignorant fear article and/or an article written by someone who knows NOTHING about space launch and design.

(I used to be a military rocket scientist specializing in radiation effects on space electronics many moons ago).

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@zackees 2 hours

Replying to @lelf 🎙

So this effect is caused by more solar wind slamming into the atmosphere at 100’s of km/hr and is so powerful that it’s CAUSING THE ATMOSPHERE TO HEAT UP AND EXPAND?

Does the global warming models take this into effect? This seems like an unfathomable amount of energy.

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@kgc 3 hours

Replying to @lelf 🎙

I wish we could go back to the days of non-clickbait headlines.

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@not2b 5 hours

Replying to @lelf 🎙

Too many HN threads just seem to be people arguing about the appropriateness of the title. The article addresses a significant and interesting issue that's going to have major negative effects on business models, as well as some positive effect on space junk. I think they did a decent job, at least for an article intended for the general public, and I'm glad I read it. And yes, the word "plummet" is an exaggeration. But that isn't a big deal.

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@stjohnswarts 1 hour

Replying to @lelf 🎙

I mean wouldn't they account for this and add thrusters and fuel to put it back where they want it?

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@vsllc 5 hours

Replying to @lelf 🎙

I am thinking about a commercial data product to address the situational awareness need here. It feels daunting though, because customers would be the likes of SpaceX and other intimidating entities. If anyone has thoughts, or is interested, please send me an email. (Contact info in profile!) Thanks.

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@Treblemaker 1 hour

Replying to @lelf 🎙

(December 19, 2020) "The consensus view of an international panel of 12 scientists calls for the new cycle, Solar Cycle 25, to be small to average, much like its predecessor, Solar Cycle 24.

But a prominent astrophysicist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Scott McIntosh, foresees the sun going gangbusters. The cycle is already off to a fast start, coinciding with the recent publication of McIntosh’s paper in Solar Physics. The study, with contributions from several of his colleagues, forecasts the nascent sunspot cycle to become one of the strongest ever recorded."

[0] https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/12/19/solar-cycl...

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@jaywalk 5 hours

Replying to @lelf 🎙

Is the word "plummet" really appropriate here? They're talking about falling at a rate of 0.001mph, which is much faster than expected but hardly a "plummet."

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@zoomablemind 4 hours

Replying to @lelf 🎙

There were some space tech startups planning to provide a kind of tug-service to satellites on the low orbit. Not sure if any viability for this is on the near-future horizon.

Space tugs as a service: https://spacenews.com/space-tugs-as-a-service-in-orbit-servi...

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@mturmon 2 hours

Replying to @lelf 🎙

As people are pointing out, the rate of orbital decay does matter (even if it's not a "plummet"!) -- because everyone concerned knows that solar activity should be increasing to some extent in 2022 as a new solar cycle takes hold.

This plot of sunspot activity, and the (highly correlated) 10.7cm radio flux, indicates that the current cycle (cycle #25) is rising much faster than typical:

https://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/solar-cycle-progression

As you can see, cycle #24, which ended in 2019, was quieter than expected (annoying to solar physicists who only see a few cycles within their whole career) -- so it's actually very interesting that Cycle #25 is starting out with a bang.

NOAA is the main US government agency tasked with monitoring/predicting solar activity for the protection of ground and space systems. The main facility is the Space Weather Prediction Center which is in Boulder, CO -- that's the data source of the above plots. The SWPC centerpiece used to be a control room with a bunch of people looking at computer monitors filled with various real-time and historical time series.

We don't know why some cycles are less intense, and the last few cycles have generally been on a downward trend (e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_cycle#Sunspots). So again, it is indeed quite interesting to see this high activity - if it holds up.

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