America Needs Your Help to Fight Space Attacks: (Seriously)

Your government is formulating a strategy to defend the world against forces from outer space. And they are asking for your help. Honestly, we’re not making this up.

The National Space Weather Strategy, quarterbacked by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, is out for public comment on the federal register, and it’s actually kind of a big deal. Turns out space wants to obliterate modern society.

Pew! Pew!
Angus Mckie made this picture, back when science fiction artists didn’t need computers…that could be attacked by space weather

No, not like that. But in a way, the reality is a bit scarier. Like…The Road scary.

It all began in 1859. On September 1st of that year, two English astronomers observed a massive explosion on the sun — a solar flare. The flare was also associated with what science type people call a coronal mass ejection. Basically, through forces still only partially understood, the magnetic polarity of the sun shifts around and it (the sun, the thing keeping us all from freezing to death on earth) vomits out a massive burst of gas and radiation. And then (back to 1859) all hell broke loose. It was called the Carrington event, because one of the astromers was named Carrington. And it sounds cool.

Anyway, the radiation storm was so intense that the Aurora borealis — the northern lights, caused when charged plasma hits the earths magnetic field — were spectacular as far south as Virginia, and visible basically everywhere. Isaac Hayes (the arctic explorer, not the soul master) made a sketch and sent it to his painting mentor Frederic Edwin Church who painted this:

At the time of this painting, Frederic Edwin Church had no idea this Aurora might end civilization as we know it today.

It’s beautiful; a majestic rendering of the spectacular display of stellar grandeur. But, it also wants you dead.

Turns out space radiation is really, really bad for technology. In 1859 a few telegraph offices exploded. If the Carrington even happened today, according to this Lloyds report and some other people, we’d basically be teleported back to 1859 because anything that needs power would be reduced to silent hulking shadows of a once vibrant society, now the crumbling the dust of its own hubris, brought low by the awesome power of nature. Sort of like the Galveston in 1900 (seriously, read a book, people).

Or maybe not.

There’s a couple schools of thinking on this. Some folks, looking at the way geomagnetically induced currents in the ground are impacted by geomorphology and…other things we don’t know a lot about…think it might not be so bad, and the electrical grid would sort itself out.

But wait, there’s more. If you read the National Space Weather Strategy you’ll also learn about things like ionosphere, and scintillation, and charged particles and radio blackouts. Seriously, space wants to mess earth up a whole lot.

So, anyway, the White House has gotten a plucky band of professional worriers together to sort the whole business out. So go read the strategy and send the Executive branch your reckons. And once we get this strategy finished we’ll be all squared away as a nation to maintain our planetary defenses. Yep. All squared away.

(Except for asteroids. Yes those are also kind of a world ending big deal.)

Sleep well, earthlings.