The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

GPS has become increasingly important to our lives. Not only do Waze, Uber, and many other applications heavily rely on global positioning system. Our cellular networks rely on GPS clocks, banking systems, financial markets, and power grids all depend on GPS for precise time synchronization. In the finance sector, GPS-derived timing allows for ATM, credit cards transactions to be timestamped. Computer network synchronization, digital TV and radio, as well as IoT (Internet of Things) applications also rely on GPS-clock and geo-location services.

In an operational environment jamming GPS signals represents both a threat and an important capability. In addition to serving an important purpose in navigation on land, sea and in the air, GPS also provides targeting capability for precision weapons along with many other tactical and strategic purposes.


For this reason, the U.S. military frequently trains to deny or degrade GPS signals on a large-scale. In 2017, we went inside Nellis AFB to get a firsthand demonstration of how easy and how quickly the U.S. Air Force can jam GPS signals for training purposes.

For instance, the U.S. Navy’s CSG-4, that “mentors, trains and assesses Atlantic Fleet combat forces to forward deploy in support and defense of national interests”, is currently conducting GPS Interference testing in the East Coast area. As an FAA NOTAM (Notice To Airmen), issued for airspace in eight of the FAA’s Air Route Traffic Control Centers, warns, GPS could be degraded from Caribbean and Florida north to Pennsylvania west to the eastern Louisiana, while the tests are conducted Feb. 6 – 10, 2019, at different hours.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

The area affected by GPS interference operations.

(FAA NOTAM)

GPS-based services including Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), the Ground Based Augmentation System, and the Wide Area Augmentation System, could be unreliable or lost in a radius extending several hundred miles from the offshore operation’s center, the FAA said.

In 2017, we went inside Nellis AFB to get a firsthand demo from member of the 527th Space Aggressor Squadron (527th SAS) who showed us how easy and how quickly the U.S. Air Force can jam GPS signals for training purposes: in only a few seconds members of the 527th SAS used commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment to jam local GPS reception making many public services unavailable.

This is not the first time such GPS-denial operations take place. It has already happened on the West Coast in 2016 and, more recently, on the East Coast, at the end of August 2018:

As happened in all the previous operations, we really don’t know which kind of system is being used to jam GPS. However, it must be an embarked system, considered that the source of the jamming is a location off the coast of Georgia, centered at 313339N0793740W or the CHS (Charleston AFB) VOR 173 degree radial at 83NM (Nautical Miles).

As mentioned, not only the military is so heavily reliant on GPS.

AOPA estimates that more than 2,000 airports — home bases to more than 28,600 aircraft — are located within the area’s lowest airspace contour. The East Coast test is “unacceptably widespread and potentially hazardous,” said Rune Duke, AOPA senior director of airspace, air traffic and aviation security, in an article on AOPA website.

Here’s another interesting excerpt from the same article that provides examples of how the GPS testing has affected general aviation:

A safety panel held in September 2018 ended with the FAA deadlocked on a path forward. In November 2018, AOPA reported on instances of aircraft losing GPS navigation signals during testing—and in several cases, veering off course. Instances have been documented in which air traffic control temporarily lost the tracks of ADS-B Out-equipped aircraft.

In a vivid example of direct hazard to aircraft control in April 2016, an Embraer Phenom 300 business jet entered a Dutch roll and an emergency descent after its yaw damper disengaged; the aircraft’s dual attitude and heading reference systems had reacted differently to the GPS signal outage. This issue was subsequently corrected for this aircraft.

AOPA is aware of hundreds of reports of interference to aircraft during events for which notams were issued, and the FAA has collected many more in the last year. In one example that came to AOPA’s attention, an aircraft lost navigation capability and did not regain it until after landing. During a GPS-interference event in Alaska, an aircraft departed an airport under IFR and lost GPS on the initial climb. Other reports have highlighted aircraft veering off course and heading toward active military airspace. The wide range of reports makes clear that interference affects aircraft differently, and recovery may not occur immediately after the aircraft exits the jammed area.

Pilot concern is mounting. In a January 2019 AOPA survey, more than 64 percent of 1,239 pilots who responded noted concern about the impact of interference on their use of GPS and ADS-B. (In some cases, pilots who reported experiencing signal degradation said ATC had been unaware the jamming was occurring.)

Interestingly, “stop buzzer” is the code word, pilots may radio to the ATC when testing affects GPS navigation or causes flight control issues:

Pilots who encounter hazardous interruption of GPS navigation or who have flight-control issues should be aware that they can say the phrase “Stop buzzer” to air traffic control, which initiates the process of interrupting the testing to restore navigation signal reception, Duke said.

During previous GPS-interference events, pilots declared emergencies, but the jamming continued because ATC did not understand that the emergency was related to the GPS interference. According to the Pilot/Controller Glossary, “stop buzzer” is a term used by ATC to request suspension of “electronic attack activity.” Pilots should only use the phrase when communicating with ATC, or over the emergency frequency 121.5 MHz, if a safety-of-flight issue is encountered during a known GPS interference event. Using this unique phrase when experiencing an unsafe condition related to GPS interference will ensure that ATC and the military react appropriately by stopping the jamming, Duke said.

“Pilots should only say ‘stop buzzer’ when something unsafe is occurring that warrants declaring an emergency. They should make sure ATC knows that the emergency is GPS-related and that halting the GPS interference will resolve the emergency,” he said.

Despite the complaints from the civilian side, dominating the GPS “domain” is crucial to win. Consequently, along with the periodic testing like the one underway in the U.S. southeastern coast, GPS jamming has become a common operation of the most recent Red Flag exercises that include simulated scenarios where warfighters train to operate in an environment where electronic and cyber-attacks may disable GPS capability.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 surprising targets of Chinese espionage

For America, there’s a pretty clear idea of what our intelligence agencies should do, and it’s mostly about keeping tabs on new enemy weapons, terrorists plots, and counterespionage. But, American technology and innovations are also a coveted target for other countries, especially ones like China that are developing rapidly.

And China has the money and the culture to do something about it. They have proven capable of stealing secrets, partially to support military programs and partially to support the state-run companies that are in charge of keeping the people happy so President Xi Jinping can keep concentrating on wandering the Hundred Acre Wood.


(He reportedly hates being compared to Winnie the Pooh, so that’s just the best)

Here are six targets of Chinese espionage that you probably wouldn’t guess:

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

The site of some of the most sinister thefts of secret technology.

(Photo by Don Graham)

Farms

Perhaps the most surprising target of foreign espionage, especially Chinese, is American farms. America has some of the most advanced farms in the world, both in terms of the machinery used and the seeds that are grown there. The seeds and machines are so advanced, in fact, that it creates friction with normal farmers who are banned from repairing their own machines and cannot grow new seeds from their crops (they have to purchase a new batch of seeds from the manufacturer, instead).

China needs to feed millions of mouths, but doesn’t want to spend all the time and money to do the research required. Instead, they’ve sent agents across the U.S. and other nations to steal seeds from suppliers, like Monsanto and Pioneer, either illegally purchasing them or straight ripping them out of the ground.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

Self-driving cars like, the Waymo, could remake the economy, and China doesn’t want to get left behind.

(Photo by Dllu)

Self-driving cars and other automation

While self-driving cars seem like a luxury more than anything else, the underlying tech is challenging to create and could, potentially, be extremely lucrative. Add to that the fact that deep-learning algorithms for one task can give you a better idea how to create algorithms for another task, and it’s easy to see why nations, especially China, would target the companies making the new vehicles.

Prosecutors allege that a former Apple employee was stealing tech for a new employer in China when he was arrested in the airport with stolen trade secrets from an autonomous car project.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

Microbes are an important part in the manufacture of some drugs and recently, chemicals. Yeah, China and other countries like those.

(Agricultural Research Service)

Microbes

Really any important biological discovery, especially medicinal, could go here, but a particular microbe case is instructive. Ching Wang, a man of Chinese descent who discovered an anti-parasitic drug in the 1970s, told the New Yorker that he received a phone call a little after he and his colleagues published their paper.

The caller worked for a state-run pharmaceutical company in China and was wondering if Wang could fly himself out to China with a sample of the microbe, just for funsies. Wang didn’t go, obviously, but China needs advanced medicine that it isn’t always willing to research. When China can get people to hand over crucial information, extort such information from companies, or simply steal it from non-secured computers, they can bound forward in science overnight.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

Universities are centers of learning and research that China would love to rip off.

(Photo by Ulrich Lange)

Universities

Speaking of which, universities are a great place for espionage agents, and it’s not about the co-eds. Many advanced projects being done in a country are typically the result of a partnership between governments, corporations, and universities.

And, as you might imagine, universities are typically the weakest links in these partnerships. So, they’re often the target of spies.

While there used to be only a couple thousand active contracts driving defense-applied research at any given time, a 2007 report showed that that number had risen to above 50,000 by 2006. Needless to say, there’s a lot of great research being done in places like MIT.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

Chinese wind farms are often made possible by technology that was stolen from an American company that nearly went bankrupt thanks to the theft.

(Photo by Land Rover Our Planet)

Wind and solar companies

China made a pledge to generate more clean energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To do so, they apparently decided to just steal a bunch of U.S. secrets. In one high-profile case, American company AMSC sold 0 million in tech to Chinese firm Sinovel, putting safeguards in place that would, hopefully, prevent theft of their intellectual property.

Yeah… Those safeguards failed. China got help from an insider to download source code, reversed engineer the tech, installed it on all of their projects, and then didn’t pay the 0 million. A U.S. court recently decided a case against Sinovel for million.

The lawsuit might have gone better, except the Chinese military allegedly broke into AMSC’s servers to steal their legal strategy against the Chinese firm.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

The Chinese Meng Shi, or “Brave Soldier,” is a vehicle that isn’t at all a ripoff of the AM General Humvee that American troops and their allies drive.

(Photo by Morio)

Free samples

​Oddly enough, despite all of China’s thefts, companies are still super eager to do business with state-run corporations and other entities in the country just to keep their foot in the door. Some even give free samples, something China encourages and regularlytakes advantage of.

That’s likely how China was able to domestically produce the Meng Shi, the “Brave Soldier.” AM General tried to sell them a Humvee and left behind a free sample after a visit in the 1980s. Later, China purchased a few for “oil exploration.” Then, the Meng Shi rolled off the line looking distinctly Humvee-like.

For its part, China insists that the appearance is a coincidence stemming from the vehicles’ similar missions. And besides, the Meng Shi is better on every metric, at least according to papers written by military officials and not subjected to peer review.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

US military says some US service members in South Korea may be quarantined to stop the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus

US service members in South Korea face the possibility of quarantine if they recently returned to their posts from mainland China, US Forces Korea announced Sunday as the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China continues to spread.


A 14-day self-quarantine has been put in place for US military personnel who returned to South Korea from China between Jan. 19 and Feb. 2, USFK said in a statement. There are already 15 cases of the coronavrius in South Korea, where around 28,500 US troops are stationed.

“The 14-day quarantine, which equals the incubation period for the novel coronavirus, begins from the date the individual(s) returns to S. Korea, regardless if they display symptoms or not,” the statement explained.

“USFK continues to stress the overall risk to USFK personnel remains low, but that the quarantine measures implemented are out of an abundance of caution to mitigate risk to the USFK population,” USFK further stated.

Gen. Robert Abrams, US Forces Korea commander, tweeted Sunday that “we are taking all appropriate measures to prevent any potential spread of the virus.”

“Key for everyone is to follow standard hygiene protocols, and if not feeling well—get screened ASAP!” the commander added.

This past week, the US government declared a public health emergency as the Wuhan coronavirus spread. The death toll has surpassed 300, and the number of infected is over 14,000. On Saturday, the Department of Defense announced it was preparing four military facilities to house up to 1,000 quarantined individuals should such an action be necessary.

There are already 195 people, evacuees from Wuhan, quarantined at March Air Reserve Base in California.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

These are the crazy Air Force pilots who fly into hurricanes

When the Wild Weasels were formed, one of the candidates was said to have remarked of the mission: “You’ve got to be shitting me!”


Well, if you think pilots flying up against surface-to-air missile sights define crazy, you haven’t heard of the Hurricane Hunters – and these folks have been busy.

With Hurricane Harvey set to hit the coast of Texas with at least two major military bases in the bullseye, tracking its movement has been important. One of the ways the data is gathered is by flying into the storm to help determine how strong the storm is, and where it may be headed.

This is often done by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, attached to the 403rd Wing, based out of Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi Mississippi.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

According to a release by the 403rd Wing, WC-130J Super Hercules weather reconnaissance planes have already made 10 flights into Hurricane Harvey, presently a Category 2 storm slated to reach Category 3 when it makes landfall in Texas.

Each plane has a crew of five: a pilot, co-pilot, a weather reconnaissance officer, a navigator, and a loadmaster.

During the flights through Harvey, the Airmen made dozens of passes through the eye of the hurricane, braving the strong winds in the center of the storm. On each pass, a device known as a “dropsonde” is released, providing data on dew point, pressure, temperature, and of course, wind speed and direction.

That data is sent out immediately to the National Hurricane Center.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America
Master Sgt. Erik Marcus, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron loadmaster, loads a dropsonde into a dropsonde cannon during a flight into Hurricane Harvey Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney)

“As the Hurricane Hunters, our data is time sensitive and critical for the [National Hurricane Center],” Maj. Kendall Dunn, 53rd WRS pilot explained. “This storm is rapidly intensifying.”

You’d think these pilots would be full-time Air Force, but you’d be way off. These gutsy crews who brave the wrath of nature are with the Air Force Reserve – meaning that many of them are taking time off from their regular lives to serve their country. You can see them in action monitoring Hurricane Harvey in the video below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The US Navy just threw a birthday cruise for its 222-year-old warship

A 222nd birthday is quite a milestone, and the USS Constitution celebrated in style on Oct. 18, 2019. A cruise through Boston Harbor showed off Old Ironsides, the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy, according to the National Parks Service.

Although the ship isn’t engaged in warfighting anymore, it hosts visitors as an historic site, along with the USS Constitution Museum in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

Read on to learn more about the USS Constitution’s history.


The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer)

The Constitution started construction in 1794, and first set sail Oct. 21, 1797.

She was built in Boston as one of the US Navy’s first six warfighting ships after the United States gained independence. The Constitution was first engaged during a dispute between the US and France called the Quasi-War, which took place between 1798 and 1800, according to the US Historian.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Alec Kramer)

It wasn’t until the War of 1812 that she earned her nickname.

The War of 1812 involved the US in a trade dispute between Britain and France, which later spiraled into a conflict over national sovereignty, territorial control, and westward expansion by the US.

But during the conflict, the Constitution’s hull was apparently so strong — like iron — that enemy fire couldn’t penetrate, earning the nickname “Old Ironsides.”

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

The Constitution got underway to celebrate the ship’s 222nd birthday and the Navy’s 244th Birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

The Constitution still has a full crew, which maintains the ship.

The ship maintains an active-duty commander and crew, who keep the vessel and its gear ship-shape and give tours to members of the public.

Source: US Navy

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

The USS Constitution celebrates its 222nd birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

The Constitution attempted to launch into Boston Harbor twice — and failed — before it succeeded on October 21, 1797.

Source: USS Constitution Museum

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

The USS Constitution celebrates its 222nd birthday.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

After her lengthy service and legendary survivability in the War of 1812, rumors began to circulate in the 1830s that Old Ironsides would be retired.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the poem “Old Ironsides” to stir public sentiment to save her, according to the USS Constitution Museum. She remained in service until 1853, and was converted into a naval school ship between 1857 and 1860.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

USS Constitution is tugged through the Boston harbor during Constitution’s birthday cruise.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Casey Scoular)

In 1925, US school children raised 4,000 to restore the Constitution.

Source: USS Constitution Museum

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

The Constitution cruised around Boston Harbor on October 18, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joshua Samoluk)

She was designated the US’s Ship of State in 2010 by former President Barack Obama.

Source: USS Constitution Museum

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Now a Saudi frigate was targeted by Iran-backed rebels off the Yemeni coast

New reports have emerged that a Royal Saudi navy frigate has been attacked off the coast of Yemen by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, killing two Saudi sailors.


According to a report by TheDrive.com, the Houthi rebels released a video showing an al Madinah-class frigate’s stern being enveloped by an explosion. According to Reuters, Saudi state media reported that three small boats attacked the frigate — one of which was a suicide boat that rammed the frigate’s stern.

Iran claimed that an anti-ship missile was used. A report by the Saudi Press Agency indicated the unnamed frigate was continuing its patrol operations despite the attack.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America
An al Madinah class frigate of the Royal Saudi Navy. One of these frigates was attacked off the coast of Yemen. (Royal Saudi Navy photo)

A line drawing of the al Madinah-class frigates in the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World shows that it has four 533mm torpedo tubes in the stern. Each tube carries a French F17P wire-guided torpedo. According to navweaps.com, the F17P has a range of just over 18 miles and can carry a 551-pound high-explosive warhead.

A similar attack with small boats targeted the former HSV-2 Swift in October using RPGs to cause a fire and serious damage to the vessel. The Yemeni coast is also where a series of anti-ship missile attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) took place.

The destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) fired Tomahawk cruise missiles at radar stations in Houthi territory in response to the failed attacks on the Mason. The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67) was severely damaged by a suicide boat in the port of Aden in 2000, killing 17 sailors and wounding 39, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command website.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America
HSV-2 Swift while serving with the United States Navy (U.S. Navy photo)

Video of the attack shows the explosion hitting roughly where the stern torpedo tubes would be. Combat Fleets of the World notes that the stern section also houses a pad and hangar used for a SA-365F Dauphin helicopter, equipped with AS-15TT anti-ship missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes.

Several apparent secondary explosions – smaller than the initial blast – indicate some of those may have cooked off after the initial explosion and fire.

Check out the video of the explosion on the Saudi frigate below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7d8FjamvkX0
MIGHTY MOVIES

Did Samuel L. Jackson just leak one of Captain Marvel’s powers?

Do you really want to know what happens in either Captain Marvel or Avengers: Endgame even though we’re just a few weeks away from one movie and about a month away from the other one? Well, if you want to stay pure on any of these Marvel movies, then you should probably get off the internet! In the meantime, for the curious, it looks like Samuel L. Jackson has just revealed a detail about Captain Marvel which could spoil everything about Avengers: Endgame.


In early February 2019 Several news outlets reported on an interview Jackson gave to Total Film back in January 2019. The relevant detail? Jackson confirms what many fans have long-suspected: Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) can travel through time.

“I guess we might figure out that she can do things that nobody else can do,” Jackson said in the Total Film interview. “She can time travel, so maybe she can get ahead or behind or whatever, and figure out what all that is. The fact I have the pager 20 years later – it gets addressed in an interesting sort of way.”

The “pager” is a reference to the post-credits scene of Avengers: Infinity War in which Nick Fury (Jackson) uses a ’90s style pager to send a signal to someone who seems to be Captain Marvel. Is he sending this signal to the past? Does this mean Captain Marvel will time travel to 2019 at the end of Captain Marvel? The answer seems to be yes, which again, confirms a fan theory a lot of people have had since 2018.

But, more relevantly, this information makes Captain Marvel essential viewing for anyone planning on seeing Endgame. Because if Marvel did edit out a character from the Endgame trailers and that character is Carol Danvers, then her origin story will become a huge deal.

Marvel Studios’ Captain Marvel – Official Trailer

www.youtube.com

Captain Marvel hits theaters on March 8, 2019.

Avengers: Endgame is out on April 26, 2019.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

95 year old veteran passes hours after achieving dream to visit WWII Memorial

A 95-year-old World War II veteran died during a so-called Honor Flight carrying him home from a weekend in Washington, DC.

Frank Manchel was returning home to San Diego, California, after an all-expenses-paid trip to DC honoring WWII veterans when he died on May 5, 2019, the non-profit Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement.

The American Airlines flight was about an hour from landing in San Diego when Manchel collapsed, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego, told the Union-Tribune that Manchel’s death was “almost instantaneous.”

“He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed,” he said.


Manchel, who served as an Army technical sergeant in WWII, had flown to DC with 82 other veterans, family members, and volunteers, to visit historic landmarks in the country’s capital.

The group visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Navy Yard’s museum, and the military electronics museum.

Manchel’s sons, Bruce and Howard, as well as his 93-year-old brother, Jerome, and nephew, David, joined him on the trip.

Bruce Manchel said in a statement on May 6, 2019 seen by INSIDER that his father died after “the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends.”

“We thank all of you — Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International Airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together.”

Following Manchel’s death, an American Flag was draped over his body, and two chaplains on board the flight said prayers.

When the plane landed in San Diego, veterans saluted as they passed by his body.

Honor Flight San Diego told INSIDER that American Airlines offered to take Manchel’s remains and relatives to Detroit, Michigan, at no charge ahead of May 9, 2019’s funeral. Honor Flight San Diego’s founder will be in attendance.

This is the seventh death to happen during an Honor Flight Network flight, the Associated Press reported. Honor Flight San Diego requires veterans and their guardians to complete medical questionnaires before flying.

In 2018, fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics cited by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

It rains on the sun – this is how

For five months in mid 2017, Emily Mason did the same thing every day. Arriving to her office at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, she sat at her desk, opened up her computer, and stared at images of the Sun — all day, every day. “I probably looked through three or five years’ worth of data,” Mason estimated. Then, in October 2017, she stopped. She realized she had been looking at the wrong thing all along.

Mason, a graduate student at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., was searching for coronal rain: giant globs of plasma, or electrified gas, that drip from the Sun’s outer atmosphere back to its surface. But she expected to find it in helmet streamers, the million-mile tall magnetic loops — named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet — that can be seen protruding from the Sun during a solar eclipse. Computer simulations predicted the coronal rain could be found there. Observations of the solar wind, the gas escaping from the Sun and out into space, hinted that the rain might be happening. And if she could just find it, the underlying rain-making physics would have major implications for the 70-year-old mystery of why the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona, is so much hotter than its surface. But after nearly half a year of searching, Mason just couldn’t find it. “It was a lot of looking,” Mason said, “for something that never ultimately happened.”


The problem, it turned out, wasn’t what she was looking for, but where. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, Mason and her coauthors describe the first observations of coronal rain in a smaller, previously overlooked kind of magnetic loop on the Sun. After a long, winding search in the wrong direction, the findings forge a new link between the anomalous heating of the corona and the source of the slow solar wind — two of the biggest mysteries facing solar science today.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

Mason searched for coronal rain in helmet streamers like the one that appears on the left side of this image, taken during the 1994 eclipse as viewed from South America. A smaller pseudostreamer appears on the western limb (right side of image). Named for their resemblance to a knight’s pointy helmet, helmet streamers extend far into the Sun’s faint corona and are most readily seen when the light from the Sun’s bright surface is occluded.

(© 1994 Úpice observatory and Vojtech Rušin, © 2007 Miloslav Druckmüller)

How it rains on the Sun

Observed through the high-resolution telescopes mounted on NASA’s SDO spacecraft, the Sun – a hot ball of plasma, teeming with magnetic field lines traced by giant, fiery loops — seems to have few physical similarities with Earth. But our home planet provides a few useful guides in parsing the Sun’s chaotic tumult: among them, rain.

On Earth, rain is just one part of the larger water cycle, an endless tug-of-war between the push of heat and pull of gravity. It begins when liquid water, pooled on the planet’s surface in oceans, lakes, or streams, is heated by the Sun. Some of it evaporates and rises into the atmosphere, where it cools and condenses into clouds. Eventually, those clouds become heavy enough that gravity’s pull becomes irresistible and the water falls back to Earth as rain, before the process starts anew.

On the Sun, Mason said, coronal rain works similarly, “but instead of 60-degree water you’re dealing with a million-degree plasma.” Plasma, an electrically-charged gas, doesn’t pool like water, but instead traces the magnetic loops that emerge from the Sun’s surface like a rollercoaster on tracks. At the loop’s foot points, where it attaches to the Sun’s surface, the plasma is superheated from a few thousand to over 1.8 million degrees Fahrenheit. It then expands up the loop and gathers at its peak, far from the heat source. As the plasma cools, it condenses and gravity lures it down the loop’s legs as coronal rain.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

Coronal rain, like that shown in this movie from NASA’s SDO in 2012, is sometimes observed after solar eruptions, when the intense heating associated with a solar flare abruptly cuts off after the eruption and the remaining plasma cools and falls back to the solar surface. Mason was searching for coronal rain not associated with eruptions, but instead caused by a cyclical process of heating and cooling similar to the water cycle on Earth.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Scientific Visualization Studio/Tom Bridgman, Lead Animator)

Mason was looking for coronal rain in helmet streamers, but her motivation for looking there had more to do with this underlying heating and cooling cycle than the rain itself. Since at least the mid-1990s, scientists have known that helmet streamers are one source of the slow solar wind, a comparatively slow, dense stream of gas that escapes the Sun separately from its fast-moving counterpart. But measurements of the slow solar wind gas revealed that it had once been heated to an extreme degree before cooling and escaping the Sun. The cyclical process of heating and cooling behind coronal rain, if it was happening inside the helmet streamers, would be one piece of the puzzle.

The other reason connects to the coronal heating problem — the mystery of how and why the Sun’s outer atmosphere is some 300 times hotter than its surface. Strikingly, simulations have shown that coronal rain only forms when heat is applied to the very bottom of the loop. “If a loop has coronal rain on it, that means that the bottom 10% of it, or less, is where coronal heating is happening,” said Mason. Raining loops provide a measuring rod, a cutoff point to determine where the corona gets heated. Starting their search in the largest loops they could find — giant helmet streamers — seemed like a modest goal, and one that would maximize their chances of success.

She had the best data for the job: Images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, a spacecraft that has photographed the Sun every twelve seconds since its launch in 2010. But nearly half a year into the search, Mason still hadn’t observed a single drop of rain in a helmet streamer. She had, however, noticed a slew of tiny magnetic structures, ones she wasn’t familiar with. “They were really bright and they kept drawing my eye,” said Mason. “When I finally took a look at them, sure enough they had tens of hours of rain at a time.”

At first, Mason was so focused on her helmet streamer quest that she made nothing of the observations. “She came to group meeting and said, ‘I never found it — I see it all the time in these other structures, but they’re not helmet streamers,'” said Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at Goddard, and a coauthor of the paper. “And I said, ‘Wait…hold on. Where do you see it? I don’t think anybody’s ever seen that before!'”

A measuring rod for heating

These structures differed from helmet streamers in several ways. But the most striking thing about them was their size.

“These loops were much smaller than what we were looking for,” said Spiro Antiochos, who is also a solar physicist at Goddard and a coauthor of the paper. “So that tells you that the heating of the corona is much more localized than we were thinking.”

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

Mason’s article analyzed three observations of Raining Null-Point Topologies, or RNTPs, a previously overlooked magnetic structure shown here in two wavelengths of extreme ultraviolet light. The coronal rain observed in these comparatively small magnetic loops suggests that the corona may be heated within a far more restricted region than previously expected.

(NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory/Emily Mason)

While the findings don’t say exactly how the corona is heated, “they do push down the floor of where coronal heating could happen,” said Mason. She had found raining loops that were some 30,000 miles high, a mere two percent the height of some of the helmet streamers she was originally looking for. And the rain condenses the region where the key coronal heating can be happening. “We still don’t know exactly what’s heating the corona, but we know it has to happen in this layer,” said Mason.

A new source for the slow solar wind

But one part of the observations didn’t jibe with previous theories. According to the current understanding, coronal rain only forms on closed loops, where the plasma can gather and cool without any means of escape. But as Mason sifted through the data, she found cases where rain was forming on open magnetic field lines. Anchored to the Sun at only one end, the other end of these open field lines fed out into space, and plasma there could escape into the solar wind. To explain the anomaly, Mason and the team developed an alternative explanation — one that connected rain on these tiny magnetic structures to the origins of the slow solar wind.

In the new explanation, the raining plasma begins its journey on a closed loop, but switches — through a process known as magnetic reconnection — to an open one. The phenomenon happens frequently on the Sun, when a closed loop bumps into an open field line and the system rewires itself. Suddenly, the superheated plasma on the closed loop finds itself on an open field line, like a train that has switched tracks. Some of that plasma will rapidly expand, cool down, and fall back to the Sun as coronal rain. But other parts of it will escape – forming, they suspect, one part of the slow solar wind.

Mason is currently working on a computer simulation of the new explanation, but she also hopes that soon-to-come observational evidence may confirm it. Now that Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, is traveling closer to the Sun than any spacecraft before it, it can fly through bursts of slow solar wind that can be traced back to the Sun — potentially, to one of Mason’s coronal rain events. After observing coronal rain on an open field line, the outgoing plasma, escaping to the solar wind, would normally be lost to posterity. But no longer. “Potentially we can make that connection with Parker Solar Probe and say, that was it,” said Viall.

Digging through the data

As for finding coronal rain in helmet streamers? The search continues. The simulations are clear: the rain should be there. “Maybe it’s so small you can’t see it?” said Antiochos. “We really don’t know.”

But then again, if Mason had found what she was looking for she might not have made the discovery — or have spent all that time learning the ins and outs of solar data.

“It sounds like a slog, but honestly it’s my favorite thing,” said Mason. “I mean that’s why we built something that takes that many images of the Sun: So we can look at them and figure it out.”

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

Articles

Navy fleet commanders warn of potential fight in North Korea

Two top Navy fleet commanders said Tuesday that the next potential conflict hotspot would likely be in Korea.


“If there’s a fight tonight, it’s probably going to happen on the Korean peninsula,” said Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of 7th Fleet, in a panel discussion at the AFCEA West 2017 conference.

Also read: US sends carrier strike group to mix it up in the South China Sea

Vice Adm. Nora Tyson, commander of 3rd Fleet, agreed with that assessment, saying that hostilities with the North Korean regime would be the “number one probability.”

The fleet commanders made their comments on a panel discussion titled, “Are we ready to fight — today and in the future?”

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America
In addition to its long-range missiles and nuclear programme, North Korea has a line of shorter-range Hwasong missiles capable of hitting Japan.

“Are we ready to fight? You bet we are,” said Vice Adm. Jamie Foggo, a former 6th Fleet commander who now serves as director of the Navy’s joint staff.

Foggo pointed to recent provocations out of Pyongyang as worrisome. Earlier this month, North Korea launched a land-based nuclear-capable ballistic missile that traveled 300 miles before splashing into the Sea of Japan.

“Frankly, it was pretty impressive,” Foggo said. “It was like a submarine missile launched from a tank. Solid fuel. Pretty impressive.”

Still, Aucoin pointed to the US’ strong relationship with South Korea and Japan as helping to counter aggression out of Pyongyang, along with a number of moves of sophisticated weaponry and early-warning assets to the region, including E2D Hawkeye aircraft, F/A-18 Super Hornets, and F-35B fighters being placed in Okinawa.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America
The Republic of Korea Navy amphibious landing ship ROKS Dokdo (LPH 6111) and the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) transit the Sea of Japan. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Adam K. Thomas

The US also has Patriot missile batteries and is moving forward with placing the more-advanced THAAD interceptor on the ground in South Korea. There are more than 28,000 US soldiers stationed there.

Aucoin said those assets provide a “pretty good umbrella.”

On Sunday, the Washington Post reported that preparations were underway to bring North Korean officials to the United States for diplomatic talks between former US officials.

7th Fleet, Aucoin said, is well-resourced and well-manned. “We’re ready to deliver decisive combat power on, above, and below the surface if necessary,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia warns that its largest-ever war games are the new norm

Big Russia-China war games are apparently going to be routine going forward, the Russian defense minister revealed Sept. 12, 2018.

“We have agreed to conduct such exercises on a regular basis,” General Sergei Shoigu stated Sept. 12, 2018, as he toured the Tsugol firing range in eastern Siberia where thousands of Russian and Chinese troops are training together for war. The defense minister was accompanied by Chinese General Wei Fenghe at the time of the announcement, which comes as both Russia and China confront the US.

During Sept. 12, 2018’s exercises, Russian strategic bombers launched long-range cruise missiles at a firing range while warships opened fire on targets at sea, the Associated Press reported. There are at least 300,000 Russian troops, 36,000 vehicles, and 1,000 aircraft taking part in the Vostok 2018 exercises, the largest Russian war games in decades, CNN reported, citing the Russian Ministry of Defense.


Shoigu said previously that the drills were being held on an “unprecedented scale both in territory and number of troops involved.” China deployed 900 combat vehicles and 30 aircraft, along with 3,200 troops, to the drills. Mongolia also sent troops to participate.

The strengthening of military ties between Russia and China is particularly alarming given rising tensions between each country and Washington.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

A Russian Mil Mi-8 helicopter.

China has grown bolder in the South China Sea, deploying advanced weapons platforms to the disputed waterway and challenging foreign ships and planes that fly or sail too close to territorial holdings occupied by China while Beijing argues with Washington over everything from trade to North Korea. Russia, on the other hand, has gone so far as to threaten to conduct strikes on a key US-led coalition base in Syria and fly strategic bombers near Alaska, risky moves amid deteriorating relations between Russia and the US.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said Sept. 10, 2018, that the US respects Russia and China’s decision to hold military exercises, something the US also does with its allies and international partners. He added, though, that the US is watching these exercises closely.

Featured image: Russian armored personnel carriers roll during the military exercises in the Chita region, Eastern Siberia, during the Vostok 2018 exercises in Russia.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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5 general officers who were almost certainly crazy

These five American generals and admirals did things that played with the thin line between cunning and crazy, but they were awesome at their jobs so most everyone looked the other way.


1. A Navy admiral dressed up in a ninja suit to ensure his classified areas were defended.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America
Photo: US Navy

Vice Adm. John D. Bulkeley was an American hero, let’s get that straight right out of the gate. He fought to attend Annapolis and graduated in 1933 but was passed over for a Naval commission due to budget constraints. So he joined the Army Air Corps for a while until the Navy was allowed to commission additional officers. In the sea service, he distinguished himself on multiple occasions including a Medal of Honor performance in the Pacific in World War II. War. Hero.

But he was also kind of crazy. As the commander of Clarksville Base, Tennessee after the war, Bulkeley was worried that his Marines may not have been properly protecting the classified areas. So, he would dress up in a ninja suit, blacken his face, and attempt to sneak past the armed Marines. Luckily, he was never shot by any of the sentries.

2. Lt. Gen. George Custer was obsessed with his huge pack of dogs.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

Gen. George Custer had “crazy cat lady” numbers of dogs with between 40 and 80 animals at a time. It’s unknown exactly when he began collecting the animals, but while in Texas in 1866 he and his wife had 23 dogs and it grew from there.

Custer’s love of the animals was so deep, his wife almost abandoned their bed before he agreed to stop sleeping with them. On campaign, he brought dozens of the dogs with him and would sleep with them on and near his cot. Before embarking on the campaign that would end at Little Bighorn, Custer tried to send all the dogs back home. This caused his dog handler, Pvt. John Burkman, to suspect that the campaign was more dangerous than most.

Some of the dogs refused to leave and so Burkman continued to watch them at Custer’s side. Burkman had night guard duty just before the battle, and so he and a group of the dogs were not present when Native American forces killed Custer and much of the Seventh Cavalry. It’s unknown what happened to the dogs after the battle.

3. Gen. Curtis LeMay really wanted to bomb the Russians.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay is a controversial figure. On the one hand, he served as the commander of Strategic Air Command and later as the Air Force Chief of Staff. He shaping American air power as it became one of the most deadly military forces in the history of the world, mostly due it’s strategic nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, he really wanted to use those nukes. He advocated nuclear bombs being used in Vietnam and drew up plans in 1949 to destroy 77 Russian cities in a single day of bombing. He even proposed a nuclear first strike directly against Russia. Any attempt to limit America’s nuclear platform was met with criticism from LeMay. Discussing his civilian superiors, he was known to often say, “I ask you: would things be much worse if Khrushchev were Secretary of Defense?”

4. LeMay’s successor really, really wanted to bomb the Russians.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America

Gen. Curtis LeMay may have been itchy to press the big red button, but his protege and successor was even worse. LeMay described Gen. Thomas Power as “not stable,” and a “sadist.”

When a Rand study advocated limiting nuclear strikes at the outset of a war with the Soviet Union, Power asked him, “Why are you so concerned with saving their lives? The whole idea is to kill the bastards … At the end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win.”

5. Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne made his soldiers fight without ammunition.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America
Portrait: Anna Claypoole Peale

In the Revolutionary War, bayonets played a much larger role than they do today. Still, most generals had their soldiers fire their weapons before using the bayonets.

Not Gen. “Mad” Anthony Wayne. He was sent by Gen. George Washington to reconnoiter the defense at Stony Point, New York. There, Wayne decided storming the defenses would be suicide and suggested that the Army conduct a bayonet charge instead.

Shockingly, this worked. On the night of July 15, 1779, the men marched to Stony Point. After they arrived and took a short rest, the soldiers unloaded their weapons. Then, with only bayonets, the men slipped up to the defenses and attacked. Wayne himself fought at the lead of one of the attacking columns, wielding a half-pike against the British. Wayne was shot in the head early in the battle but continued fighting and the Americans were victorious.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Some dirtbags messed with an Iwo Jima memorial — and Marines caught ’em on film

Police in Massachusetts are investigating the latest case of vandalism to an Iwo Jima memorial.


Officials say the memorial in Fall River was doused with the contents of a fire extinguisher last weekend.

Commandant Bruce Aldrich of the city’s Marine Corps League tells the Herald News that surveillance video captured a man and woman vandalizing the statue at about 4 a.m. Oct. 14. The fire extinguisher was left behind and is being processed for fingerprints.

The Navy is basically jamming a quarter of America
The Fall River memorial. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Kenneth C. Zirkel.

City Veteran’s Agent Raymond Hague is concerned the statue’s protective coating was damaged.

The memorial is a one-third scale replica of the Iwo Jima memorial in Washington depicting Marines raising the US flag on Mount Suribachi, a moment captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph.

The Fall River memorial, dedicated in 2005, has frequently been targeted by vandals.