Bad Weather That You Won’t See

Spring is coming. Today the temperature in Philadelphia could rise to 70ยบ F, the warmest day since last October. The sky now is blanketed in a cover of soft white clouds. There is a warm front rolling over us.

The clouds are nothing like the towering thunderheads typical of summer, though — not that I want to rush the change of seasons, but I like thunderstorms.

At their most intense thunderstorms are awe-inspiring, but even a modest storm is fascinating to watch. When I think of an ‘electrical storm’ I envision lots of lightening and the accompanying crack and rumble of thunder.

Although such weather can be very damaging locally, it is nothing compared to the invisible (unless you live at the poles) storm forecasted in a article titled: Catastrophe Looming: The Risk of Rising Solar Storm Activity. The havoc that a huge solar storm with accompanying coronal mass ejection could have might entail over $2 trillion and 10 years of recovery efforts.

Why dwell on such an apocalyptic scenario on such a pleasant pre-spring morning? Well — I read the article on a 3G-enabled iPad currently attached to a wifi network and a bluetooth keyboard. There is a Nexus One Android phone in my pocket, and I’ve already checked my email, Twitter, and Facebook accounts more than once today. Plus, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been following the news reports from the network-assisted uprisings in the Middle East with a lot of interest.

One big belch from the sun and all of those things I’ve come to associate with a Friday morning in a local (but globally connected) coffee shop would end — wiped out by very bad, invisible weather.

The point is not to fret over something that no one has control over and that may not happen in my life time (although it is quite possible that it will). The point is to appreciate the inter-connectedness that has been woven into our electrified modern lives — while we still have it.

Will Phoenix Rise again?

The Phoneix Mars lander has slipped into hibernation – a dangerous hibernation that it is not expected to awake from. One of the last Twitter posts from the landers was:

 @PhotoMomT Alex, it’s very unlikely I’ll wake up next spring (see: but if I do I’ll call home. Good luck w/ your project

A surrogate Twitter post reads:

[From Phoenix mission ops: Phoenix is no
longer communicating with Earth. We’ll continue to listen, but it’s
likely its mission has ended.]

The lander well exceeded its expected life span and continued to operate until the weakening of solar light deprived it of electricity. The search for past life was inconclusive but the discovery of frozen water just under the surface of Mars as well as observing falling snow was a significant step in understanding our sister planet.

See: Mars Phoenix Lander Finishes Successful Work on Red Planet

Someone from the Lander team  has been posting anthropomorphic updates to pretending to be the lander itself. Now, in keeping with the harsh realities of conditions on another planet, that voice has fallen silent.

Nevertheless – three cheers to NASA and the Lander team based in Tuscon, AZ for a highly successful project on humankind’s likeliest future second home – Mars. Congratulations to all and sleep well Phoenix!

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Phoenix Landing

Check out the NASA video explaining the landing challenges of the Phoenix Mars Polar Lander which is scheduled to touch down this coming Sunday. Three weeks ago I was at Kennedy Space Center for the very first time and was totally impressed and re-inspired by the US Space program. I’ll be watching for the success of this expedition to find water on the Mars pole.