Last year, the White House developed a plan to protect vital government networks from dangerous radiation in the event of a major solar storm, and now there’s an app that will do the same for you.
There are several apps available for Android and iPhone that monitor information coming from NASA’s Space Weather Prediction Center that can alert their users to dangerous incoming solar flares that can easily damage electronics.
The Sun goes through solar cycles that can produce both solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Solar flares can’t physically harm the Earth, but the radiation they produce can knock out communications equipment, damage planes in the sky, and harm important electronic equipment. Meanwhile, the less numerous, but more dangerous CMEs are bursts of plasma from the Sun that could easily knock out the world’s power grid.
To protect important government networks the White House worked with the National Science and Technology Council to develop a Space Weather Action Plan, according to NASA.
“In an increasingly technological world, where almost everyone relies on cellphones, and GPS controls not just your in-car map system, but also airplane navigation and the extremely accurate clocks that govern financial transactions, space weather is a serious matter.”
In 1859, a major solar storm named the Carrington Event triggered fires across North America while a 1989 incident knocked out power to six million Canadians for nine hours. Then, in 2012, solar super storm narrowly missed devastating Earth, according to NASA.
“We can’t ignore space weather, but we can take appropriate measures to protect ourselves.”
There are now several apps for your cell phone that will you prepare for a dangerous solar storm.
Solar Alert, available on iTunes for a $2.99 subscription, monitors NASA’s early warning system so it can alert users to dangerous incoming solar flares in time for them to take action, according to its website.
“Solar Alert warns you of possible obstacles presented, in whole or in part, to our technological society, and which the scientists of NASA have already warned will happen in the next few years.”
The 3D Sun for the iPhone was developed by NASA-supported programmers and uses data from the space agency’s twin STEREO spacecraft that constantly stare at the sun and monitor its condition, according to NASA.
“With this app, you can spin the sun, zoom in on sunspots, inspect coronal holes–and when a solar flare erupts, your phone plays a little jingle to alert you!”
Verizon Wireless voted the Storm Shield app as the best app for turning your smartphone into a weather radio and it comes with alerts centralized to your geographic location.
“We send you loud piercing beeps that are sure to wake you up when severe weather hits.”
The Space Weather app features real-time push notifications from NASA allowing users to view alerts, reports, and predictions directly from the government, according to its website.
“Space weather affects our planet, our technology, and all living things in many different ways.”
There are also many educational apps available for smartphone users that feature interactive views of the solar system that users can zoom in and around to virtually visit the many celestial bodies in our sky.
Whichever app you choose to keep up to date on important solar activity and provide an early warning in the case of disaster it will be important to take action once news of an impending solar storm reaches you.
The Department of Homeland Security encourages everyone to have a space weather emergency kit, basically the same as an emergency kit for earthquakes and tornadoes, stocked with food, fresh water, and other vital supplies.
Where will you be when the next solar storm strikes?
Photo by NASA/Getty Images