Information

Light Flares


Small patrols were also sent out to obtain information about the enemy. These patrols would go out at night. They would have to crawl forward on their stomachs in an attempt to get close enough to find out what the enemy was up to.

To stop British night patrols the Germans used a light-shell rocket. Suspended from a small parachute, the flare blazed brightly for a minute giving the defending troops a chance to kill the soldiers who had advanced into No Man's Land. Soldiers who experienced this claimed that it was like being out in the midday sun.

The Germans also used a pistol flare. This only gave light for ten or fifteen seconds. Usually the defenders combined the flare with intense machine-gun fire.


A solar flare recorded from Spain in 1886

Satellites have detected powerful solar flares in the last two months, but this phenomenon has been recorded for over a century. On 10 September 1886, at the age of just 17, a young amateur astronomer using a modest telescope observed from Madrid one of these sudden flashes in a sunspot. He wrote about what he saw, drew a picture of it, and published the data in a French scientific journal. This is what researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and the Universidad de Extremadura have recently found.

"A huge, beautiful sunspot was formed from yesterday to today. It is elongated due to its proximity to the limb . by looking at it carefully I noticed an extraordinary phenomenon on her, on the penumbra to the west of the nucleus, and almost in contact with it, a very bright object was distinguishable producing a shadow clearly visible on the sunspot penumbra. This object had an almost circular shape, and a light beam came out from its eastern part that crossed the sunspot to the south of the nucleus, producing a shadow on the penumbra that was lost in the large mass of faculae surrounding the eastern extreme of the sunspot."

In these words, Juan Valderrama y Aguilar, a 17-year-old amateur astronomer, described what he saw from Madrid on 10 September 1886 with his small telescope, with an aperture of just 6.6 cm and equipped with a neutral density filter to dim the solar light. The young man wrote down the details of his observations, made a drawing of the bright flash he had seen coming from the sunspot, and sent all the information to the French journal L'Astronomie, which did not hesitate to publish it.

"The case of Valderrama is very unique, as he was the only person in the world more than a century ago to observe a relatively rare phenomenon: a white-light solar flare. And until now no one had realised," explains José Manuel Vaquero, a lecturer at the University of Extremadura and co-author of an article about the event, now being published in the journal Solar Physics, to Sinc.

A flare is a sudden increase in the brightness of a region of the sun's atmosphere. It occurs in the outermost layers (chromosphere and corona) when the configuration of the magnetic field changes and releases energy, which can be detected in several bands of the electromagnetic spectrum as visible or ultraviolet light, although they are most commonly recorded in X-rays.

During the last two months, several of these powerful solar flares have been observed, some with associated coronal mass ejections that, in turn, can produce geomagnetic storms that perturb the communication systems in some regions of Earth, especially radio broadcasts and GPS systems.

"White-light flares correspond to the most extreme cases of this phenomenon, where so much energy is dumped into the chromosphere and corona that the energy propagates downward to the photosphere, heating it up, and producing the excess brightness that we observe in white light," according to another of the authors, Jorge Sánchez Almeida, of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC).

Scientists studying solar flares employ special satellites and instruments that do not operate with visible light, but a white-light flare can be observed with 'normal' telescopes that use visible light, as Valderrama y Aguilar did in 1886. "It is extraordinary that in the Spain of the 19th century, a 17-year old kid would make such a scientific discovery, and it is even more impresive that he had the courage of submitting it for publication to a foreing scientific journal," points out Sánchez Almeida.

"Furthermore, the white-light flare observed by Valderrama is, chronologically, the third one recorded in the history of solar physics," adds Vaquero. The first solar flare was recorded by British astronomer Richard C. Carrington on 1 September 1859, and the second was described on 13 November 1872 by the Italian Pietro Angelo Secchi. The two flares were widely known in their day, as they sparked a debate on whether or not they could have an impact on Earth.

Much less is known about the life of Valderrama than about the other two pioneers in solar studies. However, Sánchez Almeida, along with fellow IAC researcher and study co-author Manuel Vázquez, will soon publish the biography of this man, who was born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, spent his adolescence in Madrid and returned to his birth city, where he was the director of the meteorological observatory of the city until his death.


Encyclopedia - Star Shell

A "star shell" was a form of artillery used a means of illuminating the battlefield during the hours of darkness, and also as a means of passing signals.

When fired the star shell, which contained a fuse, would burst while at a given height igniting a magnesium flare which burned while the shell, which also contained a parachute, gradually fell to earth.

When used in this way the flare would serve to light up a wide portion of the battlefield - and in particular the spread of No Man's Land which separated the two sets of enemy front-line trenches - thus identifying any enemy patrol or wiring activity caught within the flare's boundaries.

As soon as men working in No Man's Land at night in this manner - such activity was both common and feverish - spied the ascent of a flare they would invariably throw themselves prostrate to the ground in an effort to avoid enemy detection (and resultant artillery fire) before the flare was extinguished.

Star shells used as a means of passing signals between groups were however often sent up without parachutes. These flares were sometimes multi-coloured, different colours serving to pass along a pre-given signal.

Saturday, 22 August, 2009 Michael Duffy

A Kite Balloon was an observation balloon controlled by a cable from the ground.

- Did you know?


Particles and polar attraction

Earth is constantly bombarded with debris, radiation and other magnetic waves from space that could threaten the future of life as we know it. Most of the time, the planet's own magnetic field does an excellent job of deflecting these potentially harmful rays and particles, including those from the sun.

Particles discharged from the sun travel 93 million miles (around 150 million km) toward Earth before they are drawn irresistibly toward the magnetic north and south poles. As the particles pass through the Earth's magnetic shield, they mingle with atoms and molecules of oxygen, nitrogen and other elements that result in the dazzling display of lights in the sky.

The auroras in Earth's Northern Hemisphere are called the aurora borealis. Their southern counterpart, which light up the Antarctic skies in the Southern Hemisphere, are known as the aurora australis.


Biggest Solar Flare on Record

View an animation from the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT).

At 4:51 p.m. EDT, on Monday, April 2, 2001, the sun unleashed the biggest solar flare ever recorded, as observed by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite. The flare was definitely more powerful than the famous solar flare on March 6, 1989, which was related to the disruption of power grids in Canada. This recent explosion from the active region near the sun's northwest limb hurled a coronal mass ejection into space at a whopping speed of roughly 7.2 million kilometers per hour. Luckily, the flare was not aimed directly towards Earth.

Solar flares, among the solar system's mightiest eruptions, are tremendous explosions in the atmosphere of the Sun capable of releasing as much energy as a billion megatons of TNT. Caused by the sudden release of magnetic energy, in just a few seconds flares can accelerate solar particles to very high velocities, almost to the speed of light, and heat solar material to tens of millions of degrees.

Solar ejections are often associated with flares and sometimes occur shortly after the flare explosion. Coronal mass ejections are clouds of electrified, magnetic gas weighing billions of tons ejected from the Sun and hurled into space with speeds ranging from 12 to 1,250 miles per second. Depending on the orientation of the magnetic fields carried by the ejection cloud, Earth-directed coronal mass ejections cause magnetic storms by interacting with the Earth's magnetic field, distorting its shape, and accelerating electrically charged particles (electrons and atomic nuclei) trapped within.

Severe solar weather is often heralded by dramatic auroral displays, northern and southern lights, and magnetic storms that occasionally affect satellites, radio communications and power systems. The flare and solar ejection has also generated a storm of high-velocity particles, and the number of particles with ten million electron-volts of energy in the space near Earth is now 10,000 times greater than normal. The increase of particles at this energy level still poses no appreciable hazard to air travelers, astronauts or satellites, and the NOAA SEC rates this radiation storm as a moderate S2 to S3, on a scale that goes to S5.

Monday's solar flare produced an R4 radio blackout on the sunlit side of the Earth. An R4 blackout, rated by the NOAA SEC, is second to the most severe R5 classification. The classification measures the disruption in radio communications. X-ray and ultraviolet light from the flare changed the structure of the Earth's electrically charged upper atmosphere (ionosphere). This affected radio communication frequencies that either pass through the ionosphere to satellites or are reflected by it to traverse the globe.

The SOHO mission is being conducted collaboratively between the European Space Agency and NASA.


History of Maritime Distress Signals

Traveling through waterways is definitely the oldest and one of the most efficient ways of travel, but not necessarily the smoothest. Ships sailing across water bodies are known to have run into a trouble or into another ship quite frequently. Right from the start, the ship wrecks that would cost lots of life and property are common. Sure the seriousness of such wrecks has changed in nature and to some extent, even diminished, owing to better distress signals.

A distress signal is typically a call for help sent out by a person or ship. But since the travel through waterways is one that has been around the longest, most frequent uses of emergency signals are made by ships in danger.

Types of distress signals

A distress signal is essentially something that will attract attention to attain some help. The nature of these signals has changed a lot over the time. Today, most commonly used distress signals are radio based signals that are interpreted through satellite systems, making them much more efficient, quick and precise.

But even though complex technology is available, the old forms of these marine signals like marine flares and flags are still used.

History of distress signals

The need for a system for an endangered ship to seek help while it is stranded in the middle of an ocean has been felt ever since the first voyage happened. Sailors, since long, have used one or the other form of such emergency signals, the earliest one being use of a flag.

In much older times, a ship in trouble would hoist a flag, upside down so that any ship in the distance would see it and realize that there is a ship that needs help. Later, the flag and ball version of this method came, along with use of any object that would attract attention from by passers. Other most commonly used distress signals include maritime signal flares where a flare is let up in the sky from a troubled ship, for ships or people on shore or on nearby ships to notice and send help.

As per the international rules set later, these flares when fired at an interval of a minute indicate a ship in extreme danger and asking for help. This, however, is the form used today, earlier version of which was developed by Martha Coston.

She developed an elaborate flare system which was colour-coded to allow even more clarity to maritime signal flares. Somewhere around the 1850s, she improved a system whose framework had been laid by her deceased husband.

The system underwent many modifications and was later taken up by the American marine services and standardized to be used all over America. However, Martha Coston made a huge contribution to the world of marine signals which meant ships in distress now had much more to rely on. But this is not the only emergency signals that existed.

The radio help

Among the various types of distress signals available, apparently, the most important ones are the radio controlled signals which include the ever famous Morse code and CQD.

It is believed first radio signal for help was sent by a ship somewhere in 1890s, few years later of which the Morse code came into existence. The beginning of SOS can be dated back to somewhere around 1909 when it was first used to ask for help. Some are of the opinion that SOS is an abbreviation for ‘save our ships’ or even ‘save our souls’ but those who have studied it in detail believe it was just a preferred form of signal because of its ease in being transmitted especially in times like wars, where it was most commonly used. Later the “mayday” signal also came into existence.

Today, use of flashlights for night or large reflecting mirrors to focus a beam of light are used instead of marine flares but both are equally effective and crucial to life of a ship.

Marine signals are the most intriguing and also the most useful distress signals as they can save a lot of damage if used appropriately, a fact recognized by the naval units of countries all over the world. That is why the international regulation of rules regarding distress signals has been immensely helpful as that allows ships all over the world to seek help, in case of an emergency using similar emergency signals.

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The Carrington Event of 1859 was the first documented event of a solar flare impacting Earth. The event occurred at 11:18 a.m. EDT on Sept. 1 and is named after Richard Carrington, the solar astronomer who witnessed the event through his private observatory telescope and sketched the sun's sunspots at the time. The flare was the largest documented solar storm in the last 500 years, NASA scientists have said.

According to NOAA, the Carrington solar storm event sparked major aurora displays that were visible as far south as the Caribbean. It also caused severe interruptions in global telegraph communications, even shocking some telegraph operators and sparking fires when discharges from the lines ignited telegraph paper, according to a NASA description.


The Meaning of 'Flair'

In regard to meaning, flair has not flared out like flare. It is used solely as a noun (note: flare is the only word used as a verb in this pair) and has a few basic meanings referring to a natural ability to do something, an inclination toward something, or an attractive quality.

She has a flair for storytelling.

He has a flair for the dramatic.

The restaurant has a European flair.

The server served our food with flair.

This basic word has an unexpected history. In Middle English, flayre (as flair was then commonly spelled) was used to refer to odor. (The word derives from the Old French verb flairer, "to give off an odor.") In short time, this sense fell into disuse however, in the 19th century, English picked up flair again from French—this time (influenced by modern French use of the word for the sense of smell) to indicate a discriminating sense or instinctive discernment. Agatha Christie gives evidence of this use in The Mysterious Affair at Styles. "As a detective," she writes of Hercule Poirot, "his flair had been extraordinary, and he had achieved triumphs by unravelling some of the most baffling cases of the day." Flair referring to stylish appeal debuts later. Some readers might recall the unique use of this sense in the movie Office Space (1999) in reference to eye-catching pins that add flair to the uniforms worn by restaurant servers.

Stan, Chotchkie's Manager: We need to talk about your flair.
Joanna: Really? I. I have fifteen pieces on. I, also.
Stan: Well, okay. Fifteen is the minimum, okay?
Joanna: Okay.
Stan: Now, you know it's up to you whether or not you want to just do the bare minimum. Or . well, like Brian, for example, has thirty seven pieces of flair, okay. And a terrific smile.
Joanna: Okay. So you . you want me to wear more?
Stan: Look. Joanna.
Joanna: Yeah.
Stan: People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, okay? They come to Chotchkie's for the atmosphere and the attitude. Okay? That's what the flair's about. It's about fun.

And wrestling fans might recall "Nature Boy" Ric Flair who showed flair in the ring.


Light Flares - History

A solar flare is a short-lived sudden increase in the intensity of radiation emitted in the neighborhood of sunspots. Historically it was best monitored in the H-alpha wavelength and occurs in the chromosphere, though occasionally white light flares are seen in the photosphere. Now, solar X-ray wavelengths are monitored via satellite for solar flares.

Flares are characterized by a rise time on the order of minutes and a decay on the order of tens of minutes. The total energy expended in a typical flare is about 10**30 ergs the magnetic field is extraordinarily high, reaching values of 100 to 10,000 gauss. Optical flares in H-alpha are usually accompanied by radio and X-ray bursts, and occasionally by high-energy particle emissions. The optical brightness and size of the flare are indicated by a two-character code called "importance." The first character, a number from 1 to 4, indicates the apparent area. For areas of less than 1, an "S" is used to designate a subflare. The second character indicates relative brilliance: B for bright, N for normal and F for faint. A general discussion of solar flares is found in Svestka's, SOLAR FLARES (1976).

NCEI archives approximately 80 stations, from 1938 to the present. Five stations send data to NCEI on a monthly basis -- the current main observing emphasis for Space Weather has transitioned to Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) which directly impact the Earth's geomagnetic field. Solar flares impact the Earth's upper atmosphere and can eject high energy particles that can cause satellite failures. The flare reports are processed and published in the monthly report "Solar-Geophysical Data" and in a different format in the IAU "Quarterly Bulletin on Solar Activity."

Solar H-alpha Flare events -- 1980-present earlier data 1938-1999 (NASA SPDS and NOAA ESDIM Data Rescue) Download Data

Basic monthly reports consist of data for each flare or subflare and a day-by-day table of times when the sun was under observation by photographic, electronic or visual patrol. The table gives as many of the following measurements as possible: time of beginning time of maximum brightness time of any prominent secondary maxima time of end (all times in UT) area at time of maximum brightness (square degrees of solar disk correct for foreshortening) importance class of flare (IAU 1964 report, updated in 1975) heliographic coordinates of center of gravity of flare at maximum brightness whether the above information is taken from photographic, electronic or visual data also, where available, give maximum width, and end of every observing period of each day, distinguishing any gaps of 5 minutes or more. Photographic patrols indicate the normal interval between exposures visual patrols (without photographic patrol) indicate whether continuous or intermittent and specify the normal interval.

Solar X-ray Flares from the GOES satellite 1975 to present and from the SOLRAD satellite 1968-1974 ---- Download Data


GOES x-ray events: The event starts when 4 consecutive 1-minute Xray values have met all three of the following conditions -- a.) All 4 values are above the B1 threshold and b.) All 4 values are strictly increasing and c.) The last value is greater than 1.4 times the value which occurred 3 minutes earlier. The maximum is the time when the flux value reaches maximum. The maximum flux value (the event size) is the flux, as defined by the C-M-X scale, at the time of maximum. The event ends when the current flux reading returns to 1/2 the 'peak' (peak is the sum of the flux at maximum plus the flux value at the start of the event).

Solar H-alpha Flare Index -- 1976-present, Kandilli Solar Observatory

The Comprehensive Flare Index (cfi) 1955-1980 was developed by Helen W. Dodson and E. Ruth Hedeman, McMath-Hulbert Solar Observatory. The first description is printed in WDC-A for STP's Report UAG-14, "An Experimental, Comprehensive Flare Index and Its Derivation for 'Major' Flares, 1955-1969." Subsequent volumes of cfi indices for more recent years are given in Reports UAG-52 (1970-1974) and UAG-80 (1975-1979).


The Rise of Electronic Flares and Distress Signals

For as long as people have been taking to the sea, they’ve needed a way to signal for help, guide rescuers to them in dire situations and terrible conditions. Since the mid-1800s up until recently, the go-to device for this has been the pyrotechnic flare. And with good reason, they are very effective, they burn brightly and are easily seen at night, from a plane, in the fog—you name the conditions and chances are you’ll be able to see a burning flare.

However, they have their downsides. They have relatively short burn times and, depending on your situation, you might burn through your flare kit before help arrives. They also expire, so if you don’t pay attention to the dates on the box there’s a chance you find out that they’re too old when it’s too late. Then there’s the big downside—when activated a flare is a flaming torch that can burn at over 5,000 degrees that you are holding, perhaps on your deck, over your dinghy or wherever you happen to be during the emergency. When handled incorrectly flares can cause damage to your boat and injury to you or your crew.

1) EF-20A-1 LED Strobe from North American Survival Systems. 2) The Ocean Signal RescueME EDF1. 3) The Green Rescue Laser Flare from Greatland Laser. 4) The Odeo MK3 LED flare

But hey, due to U.S. Coast Guard regulation, and simple common sense, you need flares onboard in case the unthinkable happens. However, thanks to developments that have been made in LED technology, sailors finally have an alternative to carrying pyrotechnics𠅎lectronic flares. Last year, the U.S. Coast Guard approved the SOS Distress Light, pioneered by Sirius Signal and manufactured and distributed by Weems & Plath, making it the first electronic flare legally able to replace traditional pyrotechnic options.

The idea of the electronic flare is a simple one, and the benefits are plenty. Instead of buying a box of flares that will some day expire, you can pick up the SOS Distress Light for $100 and never have to worry about it. With the SOS Distress Light paired with the orange plastic distress flag (sold separately) you’ve got your bases covered when it comes to USCG regulations for carrying daytime and nighttime distress signals. The unit activates with a simple on/off twisting, floats, can be worn on a lanyard and never expires. Additionally, when activated the Distress Light lasts for hours, not minutes or seconds like a traditional pyrotechnic flares, and since it isn’t spewing smoke and flame you can leave on the deck or fasten it in the rigging. You can easily test it to make sure the batteries work, and instead of having to go get another box of flares, all you need is a few C batteries. That’s a pretty compelling offer.

[advertisement]Electronic flares may indeed be what lies ahead for distress signaling, as several other companies have products out there that may soon get USCG approval. According to Kevin Rough with UK-based Odeo Flare, manufacturers of the Odeo MK3 LED Flare, the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (RTCM), an international non-profit scientific, professional and educational organization, was holding meetings as we went to press to work on developing new regulations for electronics vessel distress signals. (Odeo is already approved as an alternative to flares in Finland.) Like the SOS Distress Signal, the MK3 LED Flare is a powerful unit𠅏ive hours of continuous use from one set of batteries, 10-year shelf life, floats and, most importantly, uses LED lights, not flame, to get you seen. In terms of time of use, one MK3 LED is equivalent to roughly 600 pyrotechnic flares.

This is all well and good, but the bottom line is that for the time being most of these devices are not approved by the U.S. Coast Guard, so sailors still need to carry flares to cruise legally. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t also carry electronic flares as an addition to pyrotechnics. “I’ve been participating with the USCG and others on a technical committee to develop standards for electronic replacements, but there isn’t anything forthcoming for quite some time,” said Andy Little, CEO of Greatland Laser, as we were going to press. “Sailors still have to carry pyrotechnic flares, but we’ve heard from many of our customers that they carry our product so they don’t have to rely on the pyrotechnics.”

The Greatland Laser Green Rescue Laser Flare takes a different approach to distress signaling than its LED-based counterparts. The Green Rescue produces a focused fan laser that can be pointed in the direction of a rescue party. The unit is 5in in length, powered by lithium-ion batteries that provide 10 hours of use and is waterproof and made with materials that are ready to stand up to the harsh marine environment. The Green Rescue Laser’s beam can be seen up to approximately 30 miles away at night and 3 to 5 miles during the day. And also, while shining lasers at aircraft has been coming up in the news recently as a big no-no, a section of legislation passed in 2012 exempts 𠇊n individual using a laser emergency signaling devices to send an emergency distress signal.”

Another electronic flare that has been gaining popularity on the market is the EF-20A-1 LED Strobe from North American Survival Systems. The EF-20A-1 uses four CREE LEDs to shine at a blinding 200 candelas and the company claims it has a nighttime visibility of 10 nautical miles. Like many of the other electronic flares, the unit is operated with a simple on/off switch, which makes it easy to test and use when the time comes.

The rescueME EDF1 from Ocean Signal is another one to watch for. The unit is lightweight, rugged and submersible to a depth of 10m. It looks and feels like a regular flashlight, only it has a sliding guard over the on/off and test buttons. At the top there are two bands of eight, high-power red LEDs, along with two on the end, that are extremely bright and form a beam with a 30-degree arc in the horizontal plane, over a 360-degree azimuth. The company claims the LiMnO2 battery pack can retain a maximum six-hour continuous output in economy mode and two hours at full power, and while it is not rechargeable, it can be detached and be replaced easily by its owner.

So all in all, the state of electronic flares right now is in flux—while the only electronic flare that has been approved by the USCG as we went to press is the SOS Distress Light from Weems & Plath (though it has not been approved by SOLAS) there are many options on the market that make a lot of sense for sailors to carry, even if it is just in addition to their pyrotechnic flares. And, as the technology continues to improve and government and safety organizations are rethinking regulations, electronic flares may very well be the norm in marine distress signaling in the near future.


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