Saturday, May 11, 2024

Two Little, Unrelated Stories

First is the obvious one: the Planetary K-index remains at very high levels. See the plot just below. Note it has come down from its high of 9.0 in three different three hour periods in the last 24 hours (this plot is up to 0000 UTC on May 12 - or 8:00 PM EDT on the 11th). The bigger story is in those three letters in colored boxes at the upper right. That box was red and said G5 - major geomagnetic storm - last night but tonight indicates no storm is in progress. When you click on that green box, it opens a text window to say, "No G-Scale Geomagnetic Storming." This chart can be found here, and I look at it often.

An observation I've made many times is that when a high K-index starts to return to normal ranges, VHF propagation on the ham bands can get very, very good. That hasn't happened. The difference might be that my experience is K index dropping from much lower starting points, like K=4 down to K=3 or K=2, not the 8.33 down to 7.33 seen at the right edge of this bar graph. 

The predictions today have leaned toward the storm conditions continuing through the night in the US and possibly into Sunday night. The only way to reconcile that and the current "No G-Scale Geomagnetic Storming" is to say this might be "the calm before the (next) storm."  The NOAA site that predicts the extents of any aurora displays is looking just like last night.

All things considered, this was a pretty mild storm with only minor effects noted.  

According to NOAA, there have been some irregularities in power grid transmissions, and degraded satellite communications and GPS services. Users of SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet constellation have reported slower download speeds.

This is the most intense Solar storm recorded in more than two decades. The last G5 event—the most extreme category of such storms—occurred in October 2003 when there were electricity issues reported in Sweden and South Africa.

Two decades ago was cycle 23, and the intervening cycle 24 was the weakest cycle in 100 years. We got used to not having things like this happening; and nobody under 25 is likely to remember cycle 23 anyway, or any cycle before it.

You'll Never Guess What Boeing Proposed to Lower Mars Sample Return (MSR) Costs

Except you won't be surprised when I tell you their proposal was to "simplify the mission" by using the SLS. It reduces the mission to one flight of one (heavy lift) rocket, and you can argue that might be a good way to reduce risk. The problem is that SLS is the most expensive rocket flying in the world and NASA is trying to cut the cost of the MSR mission.

What's that saying about "when you only have a hammer every problem looks like a nail?" When you only have an SLS, everything looks like a mission for your SLS. 

Or something like that.


  1. I turned the radio on today about noon, and all the bands from 75 through 10 were dead. Dead as in completely blown out. Started getting better around dusk, and I saw a few station on 20, and it looks like 40 is coming back. Some of the local people here took some nice pix of the Aurora, but if I saw any, it was very light. Could see the stars and Moon, but no Aurora.

    1. On Friday evening (my time) as the storm was reaching G5 levels, I was reading several guys on the Front Range 6 Meter Group saying they were working aurora propagation. Naturally, nothing was audible this far south.

      On Saturday, I had the rig on from around 1800 UTC until 0200 Sunday morning and copied only a couple of guys out of Florida. I checked HF a few times and it looked like it wasn't completely dead, but nothing good was going on. Around 2300 UT Saturday for an hour or so, there appeared to be some openings from ZL and 3D2A into the west coast and Mexico, but nothing heard here.

    2. The Front Range guys are pretty cool. One of them lives along the way to some of our relatives, and I pass his station all the time. He has several sets of stacked Yagis, and usually shows up in the QST column 50MHz and Up. The guys I heard on 40 were very wobbly/warbley/underwater sounding, typical of what I've heard on VHF/UHF Auroral openings. There were some remarkably strong openings to EU from here, even though the rest of the band seemed wiped out, both on 20 and 40.

  2. Has ANYbody over at NASA even bothered to ask Musk if he could "pretty please" pick up some sample capsules on his way back from Mars?