Everyone who completes this activity and sends us a valid report will receive a certificate acknowledging your contributions to solar research!
What you have to know to do this activity -- Background
The Sun spews out a constant stream of X-ray and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) radiation. This energy, along with that from cosmic rays, affects the Earth’s ionosphere, starting some 60 km above us. When solar energy or cosmic rays strike the ionosphere, electrons are stripped from their nuclei. This process is called ionizing, hence the name ionosphere. It is the free electrons in the ionosphere that have a strong influence on the propagation of radio signals. Radio frequencies of very long wavelength (very low frequency or “VLF”) “bounce” or reflect off these free electrons in the ionosphere thus, conveniently for us, allowing radio communication over the horizon and around our curved Earth. The strength of the received radio signal changes according to how much ionization has occurred and from which level of the ionosphere the VLF wave has “bounced.”
The ionosphere has several layers created at different altitudes and made up of different densities of ionization. Each layer has its own properties, and the existence and number of layers change daily under the influence of the Sun. During the day, the ionosphere is heavily ionized by the Sun. During the night hours the cosmic rays dominate because there is no ionization caused by the Sun (which has set below the horizon). Thus there is a daily cycle associated with the ionizations.
In addition to the
daily fluctuations, activity on the Sun can cause dramatic sudden changes
to the ionosphere. The Sun can unexpectedly erupt with a
a violent explosion in the Sun's
atmosphere caused by huge magnetic activity. These sudden flares produce
large amounts of X-rays and EUV energy, which travel to the Earth (and
other planets) at the speed of light.
When the energy from a solar flare or other disturbance reaches the Earth, the ionosphere becomes suddenly more ionized, thus changing the density and location of its layers. Hence the term “Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance” (SID) to describe the changes we are monitoring and also the nickname of our space weather monitoring instrument, SID.
Sometimes a flare will show up in the GOES data graphs but not the catalog. The GOES data is reduced by hand, and often flares are "missed" being added, or they are determined for some reason not to be included in the catalog. If you find flare signatures in your SID data, and if those flares also appear on the GOES graphs, but they are not listed in the catalog, then you may have found flares overlooked or ignored by the GOES cataloger. We would LOVE to hear about that! Please submit a Flare Report Form tell us in the comments section that your flare did not appear in the GOES catalog.
Remember that the GOES satellites are detecting solar flares as they are emitted from the Sun. Your SID monitor is detecting changes to the Earth’s ionosphere caused by those same flares. So while your monitor and the satellites are tracking different effects, they are based on the same phenomena.