tagged w/ Astronomy
The Dobsonian telescope named after it's inventor, John Dobson brought the heavens to a great number of people. It was fairly cheap to make, but gave you the ability to see things in the sky that most store bought telescopes would never let you see. The first time I got to see Saturn for myself was through a Dobsonian telescope and Jupitar looked huge and I could even make out more than the four moons you normally can see.The Dobsonian telescope named after it's inventor, John Dobson brought the... more
New evidence suggests that planets are being tossed out of the Milky Way at speeds comparable to the speed of light.
Planets in tight orbits around stars that get ejected from our galaxy may actually themselves be tossed out of the Milky Way at blisteringly fast speeds of up to 30 million miles per hour, or a fraction of the speed of light, a new study finds.
"These warp-speed planets would be some of the fastest objects in the galaxy, aside from photons and particles like cosmic rays," said Avi Loeb, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. "In terms of large, solid objects, they would be the fastest. It would take them 10 seconds or so to cross the diameter of the Earth."
In 2005, astronomers found evidence of a runaway star that was flying out of the Milky Way galaxy at a speed of 1.5 million mph (2.4 million kph). This hypervelocity star was part of a double-star system that wandered too close to the supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy.
(read more at link)New evidence suggests that planets are being tossed out of the Milky Way at speeds... more
Monday, March 19, 2012
Evolution Under a Temperamental Sun
By Faye Flam
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
You didn’t need to be a solar physicist to be riveted by the “solar storm” that sent a blast of charged particles our way this month. That particular flare-up fizzled, but in the long term, the sun’s temper is worthy of our attention.
Our sun changes, and living things adapt or die.
Our planet circled a very different star when life first emerged on Earth some four billion years ago. The sun was dimmer and cooler, but more violent, sending deadly blasts of X-rays as well as particles that would have lit up the skies with spectacular auroras.
The displays would have been visible worldwide, but probably had no spectators, since life needed to stay deep underwater or buried inside minerals to survive until the sun calmed down.
For most of human history no one realized that the sun was fickle, breaking out in spots, flares, and eruptions, and would eventually kill all life on our planet.
“It was a huge part of Western culture that the heavens were forever and unchanging,” said University of Michigan astronomer Fred Adams, who has written books on the beginning of the universe and the end.
Galileo was the first to see spots on the sun, which did not ingratiate him with the church. Even Einstein was influenced by the cultural bias toward unchanging heavens, Adams said, altering his theory of general relativity to work in a static universe. Soon after he published his theory, Edwin Hubble showed the universe was in fact expanding.
It wasn’t until the mid-20th century that people realized the sun was running on nuclear fusion, and that when its fuel started to run low, the sun would die a violent death, blowing up into an enormous red giant.
For those concerned that the Mayans have forecast the end of the world this year, the astronomers’ threat of more solar storms may seem even more ominous.
It’s true we’re moving into a stormy season that should last into 2013, but this happens every 11 years, said Douglas Duncan, an astronomer at the University of Colorado and director of the Fiske Planetarium. Astronomers still don’t know why solar storms come in cycles or why it takes 11 years, he said. Duncan has catalogued similar cycles on other stars, and learned that sunspots and solar storms come in cycles all over the galaxy.
The cycles vary in length depending on a star’s age — the cycles lengthening as stars get older.
During the peaks, or solar maxima, the spots on the sun increase, and the sun bursts with flares and storms. The sun always sends us a solar wind of protons and electrons, but during a solar storm, these shoot out in gusts. When the particles reach Earth, they light up molecules in our atmosphere as if it were a giant fluorescent bulb.
The effects on Earth are more dramatic if the gusts are released on a direct path to Earth, as scientists thought happened earlier this month. That would be unlikely to affect human health directly, but it could have disabled satellites, particularly ones that channel GPS signals.
When Duncan was comparing sunspot cycles on different stars, he said he got a call from Carl Sagan wanting to know how solar activity might influence the course of life on Earth. That, Duncan said, would take an expert on our planet’s early history.
We humans couldn’t have tolerated the ultraviolet radiation and X-rays that pummeled our planet during life’s early history. About three billion to four billion years ago, the UV intensity was between 8 and 20 times what we have now, said geochemist Stephen Mojzsis of the Université Claude Bernard in Lyon, France. So for several billion years, life survived protected by water. As the sun cooled down and oxygen began to rise with the advent of blue-green algae, he said, life expanded to fill up the land as soon as it became habitable.
The sun was also cooler and was red rather than yellow, and we may carry an evolutionary fossil of that time in our eyes, he said. On the early Earth, microbes that were just starting to use photosynthesis began manufacturing a pigment called rhodopsin, which is good for absorbing red light. As the sun became yellow, the ability to make rhodopsin persisted, though different organisms used it for other purposes.
We use it in our retinas for night vision.
The sun was also 30 percent dimmer in the distant past, said Mojzsis. If it dimmed that much now, the Earth would freeze solid, but on the early Earth, different configurations of land masses and a different atmospheric chemistry kept the oceans liquid under such a cool sun.
The sun is getting hotter because it’s fusing hydrogen into the heavier element helium. That’s causing the sun to get denser and the nuclear fusion that powers it to become more efficient.
Scientists estimate that in 500 million to 1.5 billion years, the sun will be hot enough to wipe out all life on Earth. Moving to Mars would only postpone the apocalypse.
Our neighbor, Alpha Centauri, shines in a brighter, more bluish light because it’s older and hotter than our sun. If it had any habitable planets, they are now burnt to a crisp, said Mojzsis.
In an additional five billion years, the sun will start to run out of fuel, and before it dies, it will expel its outer layers, becoming a red giant. Astronomers used to assume that the sun would swallow our planet, said Duncan, but more recent calculations show it will expand to just about the size of Earth’s orbit. Either way, it will broil us.
As for those pessimists who worry about the Mayan predictions, Duncan said he’s looked into the matter and the ancient civilization didn’t really predict the world would end this year. Mayans did create an advanced calendar that was so good they extended it many centuries into the future. It just happened to end with 2012.
.Philadelphia Inquirer... . Monday, March 19, 2012 Evolution Under a... more
Online astronomy course
Astronomers on Monday reported the discovery of an Earth-like planet outside the solar system whose size and distance from its own star put it in the "habitable" zone and make for a surface temperature perhaps averaging a balmy 72 degrees.
(read all about it at link)Astronomers on Monday reported the discovery of an Earth-like planet outside the solar... more
Electric Universe Conference to Kick Off January 6 in Las Vegas
Annual Gathering Debuts with The Human Story
Please join us in a three-day journey through the Electric Universe. Explore with us the unified underpinnings of the natural world.
Witness how horizons expand through interdisciplinary collaboration and synthesis. Discover electric patterns repeating themselves at all scales, from the tiny world of the atom to the far reaches of space. Consider as well the electricity of life and the role of frequencies and resonance in biological systems. See how electricity helped researchers penetrate the great mysteries of the past, the origins of mythic archetypes and symbols, and the roots of cultural anxiety.
We have chosen as our symbol for the conference the primordial cosmic thunderbolt: Sanskrit [vajra], Tibetan [dorje], and Japanese [kongō]. We did so because, as a matter of record, it is this enigmatic “weapon of the gods” that bridges ancient worlds and the leading edge of plasma science.
Join Wallace Thornhill, Donald Scott, David Talbott and a full complement of Thunderbolts Project speakers in launching a new year of the Electric Universe—an unprecedented event that you will not want to miss.
...Electric Universe Conference to Kick Off January 6 in Las Vegas Annual Gathering... more
This film and book project is a collaboration of evolutionary philosopher Brian Thomas Swimme and historian of religions Mary Evelyn Tucker. They weave a tapestry that draws together scientific discoveries in astronomy, geology, and biology with humanistic insights
concerning the nature of the universe.
PBS National Broadcast Premiere coming this December.
Click here for listings nationwide. WNET Ch. 13 in New York City will broadcast the film primetime on December 7th, 8:00pm.
More at the linkThis film and book project is a collaboration of evolutionary philosopher Brian Thomas... more
Nathalie Miebach may not yet be a household name, but the Boston Massachusetts-based artist and 2011 TED Global Fellow, has already staked out a reputation as one of America’s most original-thinking and innovative sculptors.The daughter of an engineer who spent a quarter century working on the Hubble space telescope, Miebach’s art focuses on the intersection of creativity and science and the visual articulation of scientific observations.Nathalie Miebach may not yet be a household name, but the Boston Massachusetts-based... more
Today is the birthday of a great scientist and a great man. Carl Sagan instilled a love of the cosmos and science in many and was an inspiration for the world.
Please use this thread to celebrate his life in remembering a man who knew the secret of life:
"The cosmos is in all of us, we're made of star stuff; we are a way for the cosmos to know itself."
Thank you for your education, your inspiration and your insights into a fascinating cosmos.
Happy birthday, Carl Sagan.
http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRJZ1WsRh0WztjAW4qQLvUP7riLXrXfWpj-CdDi6_6CnKEm6094Today is the birthday of a great scientist and a great man. Carl Sagan instilled a... more
Dark mode plasma phenomena exist on the Sun.
The image at the top of the page is the most detailed ever taken of the Sun's chromosphere. The smallest features are 130 kilometers in size. Each spicule is about 480 kilometers in diameter, with a length of 3200 kilometers. The largest measure as much as 8000 kilometers long. Although the light and dark regions are colorful, the colors were added in processing.
In the electric Sun hypothesis, the Sun is a glowing anode, or positively charged "electrode." The cathode is an invisible "virtual cathode," called the heliosphere. The heliosphere is at the farthest limit of the Sun's coronal discharge, billions of kilometers from its surface, where a "double layer" isolates the Sun's plasma cell from the galactic plasma that surrounds it. Galactic plasma is otherwise called the Interstellar Medium (ISM).
Electric forces occurring within the double charge layer above the Sun’s surface are responsible for the incredibly active plasma phenomena that we see. Since Electric Universe theory assumes that celestial bodies interact through conductive plasma and are connected by circuits, the Sun is also assumed to be electrically connected with the galaxy. The Sun can be thought of as an electrically charged object seeking equilibrium with its environment. However, it is not stable. The charges flowing into and out of the Sun can sometimes increase to the point where it releases plasma discharges called solar flares.
Conventional scientists see solar flares, or coronal mass ejections (CME), taking place when magnetic loops "reconnect" with each other, causing a short circuit. The so-called "magnetic energy" is said to accelerate gases into space. Although "magnetic reconnection" is a poorly constructed theory, it is the only explanation offered by heliophysicists.
The "solar wind" is a dark mode emission radiating from the Sun at approximately 700 kilometers per second. In a Universe governed by gravity, the Sun's heat and radiation pressure cannot explain how the charged particles that make up the solar wind accelerate past Venus, Earth and the rest of the planets. Prior to the discovery, no one expected such acceleration.
In an Electric Universe, there is an obvious explanation: electric fields in space. Since coherent charges flow through the Solar System, then it seems reasonable to conclude that the dark mode solar plasma is affected by the electrodynamic fields of the Sun and its planetary family.
Solar flares could be tremendous lightning bursts in that case, pushing plasma to near relativistic speeds. If the circuit that connects the Sun with the Milky Way extends for hundreds of thousands of light-years, massive amounts of electrical energy might be contained in such magnetically confined “transmission lines” feeding the solar anode.
According to the Electric Sun theory, flares, the hot corona, and all other solar phenomena result from changes in the electrical input from our galaxy. Birkeland current filaments slowly rotate past the Solar System, supplying more or less power to the Sun as they go. Arc mode, glow mode, and dark mode discharges are all influenced by those flowing currents of electric charge.
Stephen SmithDark mode plasma phenomena exist on the Sun. The image at the top of the page is... more
Cargo ship crashes on way to ISS
Posted by Paul Sutherland on August 24th, 2011
An unmanned spacecraft carrying supplies for astronauts on the international space station crashed today after a disastrous launch.
PHOTO: A Progress spacecraft in orbit (NASA)
The Progress M-12M freighter plunged to Earth in eastern Russia after a rocket engine shut down too soon and its third stage failed to separate. It hit the ground and exploded, reportedly shaking windows 100 km away.
The craft was carrying three tons of food, water and other essentials for astronauts aboard the orbiting outpost. Russian officials called up the space station’s six crew to tell them of the failure.
NASA say the astronauts have enough food, water and oxygen to last them for several months. But the Progress – the 44th launched from Baikonur in Kazakhstan – would also have been used to lift the station in its orbit if necessary.
The failure, five minutes 20 seconds after lift-off, is the first in Russia’s many years of launching Progress since 1978. It highlights the risks that NASA faces now that it has retired the space shuttle and relies on Russia to launch missions into orbit.
The next US spacecraft, whether built by NASA or a private enterprise, will not be ready to launch on missions for many months at least, if not years. Astronauts going to the space station now have to be launched by Russian rocket but in a separate craft called a Soyuz.
One senior NASA space scientist told Skymania News: “Thank goodness this failed Russian rocket was launching an unmanned ship and not a Soyuz full of astronauts.”
NASA’s International Space Station manager Mike Suffredini told a news conference tonight that the Progress craft shut down an engine before the third stage was ignited due to an anomaly.
He warned that the accident might have implications for the next crewed Soyuz launch, scheduled for September 22 from Kazakhstan, as they share similar rocket booster designs.
Suffredini said the space station could go several months without a resupply vehicle if necessary. Another Progress that was due to launch in late October could be brought forward and a Soyuz “lifeboat” currently attached to the space station could bring three of the six astronauts home.
A European robotic supply ship, its third Automated Transfer Venicle (ATV) called Edoardo Amaldi, is not due to launch to the space station from Kourou, French Guiana, until March. But Suffredini said the station had supplies that could see astronauts through to then.
.Skymania News... . Cargo ship crashes on way to ISS Posted by Paul... more
So much really important news to follow, so many major issues to work on. Go outside tonight and tomorrow!Perseids Meteor shower going on, out in the fresh air, in a sky near you. Sometimes you have to take time to smell the roses. Sometimes it's good to look to the sky and let wonder seize and recharge your soul
Then, have sweet dreams of what can be.Perseids Meteor shower going on, out in the fresh air, in a sky near you. Sometimes... more
August 11th, 2011
09:17 AM ET
DNA discovered in meteorites
NASA researchers have found the building blocks of DNA, the genetic molecule that is essential to all life forms, in meteorites, pieces of space rock that have fallen to Earth. The discovery suggests that similar meteorites and comets may have impacted Earth and assisted in life formation here.
With minimal chance for contamination of the meteorite samples, scientists are confident that these meteorite specimens were formed in space. “People have been discovering components of DNA in meteorites since the 1960's, but researchers were unsure whether they were really created in space or if instead they came from contamination by terrestrial life,” Michael Callahan, lead author of the study on the discovery, said in a statement.
The research team analyzed twelve carbon rich meteorites, nine of which were from Antarctica, to positively identify the basic elements of the chemical compounds they extracted from the samples. Testing revealed adenine and guanine, two fundamental components of DNA called nucleobases.
DNA is shaped like a double helix, or twisted ladder, and the rungs of that ladder are each comprised of two nucleobases, either a pairing of adenine and thymine or of guanine and cytosine. The ladder is essentially a long string of genetic code that tells cells in an organism which proteins to make. Those proteins then play critical roles in organism growth and function, making everything from hair to enzymes.
Scientists also found hypoxanthine and xanthine, two other chemicals used in biological processes and found in muscle tissue.
The meteorites also contained trace amounts of three molecules associated with nucleobases, called nucleobase analogs, but two of those are almost never seen in biology, providing the necessary proof that these DNA components were actually created in outer space.
In fact the only record of any of these nucleobases in biologic processes is within a virus. Callahan said in the NASA press release that “if asteroids are behaving like chemical 'factories' cranking out prebiotic material, you would expect them to produce many variants of nucleobases, not just the biological ones, due to the wide variety of ingredients and conditions in each asteroid,” and that is exactly what these researchers found. He says the nucleobases found, biological or not, can also be created in a lab setting, using the basic compounds hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and water.
This finding contributes further to the growing collection of evidence that asteroids and comets are comprised of the proper chemicals to generate the building blocks of life. Some seem to have the ideal internal chemistry for the job.
“In fact, there seems to be a ‘goldilocks’ class of meteorites,” Callahan said in a statement, “the so called CM2 meteorites, where conditions are just right to make more of these molecules.”
.CNN... August 11th, 2011 09:17 AM ET DNA discovered in meteorites .... more
The Sun is predicted to "hibernate" during its next cycle in 2020.
A recent press release states that the Sun's activity will slow to an unprecedented decline in the next ten years. The prediction is based on "...three independent studies of the sun's insides, surface, and upper atmosphere..." According to the article, the drop in output could initiate climate effects comparable to the Maunder Minimum between 1645 and 1715.
Predictions about how the Sun will behave are reliable only if the interpretation of the data upon which the prediction was made is reliable. As many past Picture of the Day expositions have revealed, however, conventional theories of solar dynamics leave much to be desired. For example, attributing to internal heating the unexpected "weather patterns" recently discovered below the photosphere is like ascribing Earth’s weather patterns to heat escaping from within the Earth. The possibility that weather systems may be externally electrically powered has not occurred to investigators.
The Electric Universe theory proposes that stars are primarily electrical phenomena and not strictly based on gravitational compression somehow balanced by internal thermonuclear energy. Stars are electromagnetic in nature, responding to the laws of plasma physics and electric circuits and not those of gas dynamics or electrostatics.
This alternative view applies to the Sun, as well as to all other stars that populate the Universe: celestial bodies exist in conducting cosmic plasma and are connected by electric circuits. The Sun is "plugged-in" to a galactic power source and behaves like an electric motor and electric light. The faster rotation of the solar equator is prima facie evidence of an external force acting to offset the momentum loss of the solar wind.
Electric stars are not born from cold nebular clouds. Rather, their genesis resides in the electric currents induced in moving plasma. The electric currents induce their own encircling magnetic field, which "pinches" the currents to flow in filaments. Photographs of plasma in the laboratory show those currents forming twisted filament pairs called "Birkeland currents." Birkeland currents follow magnetic field lines, drawing ionized gas and dust from their surroundings and then "pinching" it into heated blobs called plasmoids.
As the so-called "z-pinch" effect increases, it strengthens the magnetic field, further increasing the z-pinch. The resulting plasmoids form spinning electrical discharges that glow first as red stars, then "switch discharge modes" into yellow stars, some intensifying into brilliant ultraviolet arcs, driven externally by the Birkeland currents that created them.
Since this view of the Sun is at great variance with the conventional view, the mainstream "predictions" concerning solar activity should probably be taken with a grain of salt.
Stephen Smith and Wal ThornhillThe Sun is predicted to "hibernate" during its next cycle in 2020. A... more
The Case for Parallel Universes
Why the multiverse, crazy as it sounds, is a solid scientific idea
By Alexander Vilenkin and Max Tegmark | Tuesday, July 19, 2011 |
Editor's note: In the August issue of Scientific American, cosmologist George Ellis describes why he's skeptical about the concept of parallel universes. Here, multiverse proponents Alexander Vilenkin and Max Tegmark offer counterpoints, explaining why the multiverse would account for so many features of our universe—and how it might be tested.
Welcome to the Multiverse
By Alexander Vilenkin
The universe as we know it originated in a great explosion that we call the big bang. For nearly a century cosmologists have been studying the aftermath of this explosion: how the universe expanded and cooled down, and how galaxies were gradually pulled together by gravity. The nature of the bang itself has come into focus only relatively recently. It is the subject of the theory of inflation, which was developed in the early 1980s by Alan Guth, Andrei Linde and others, and has led to a radically new global view of the universe.
Inflation is a period of super-fast, accelerated expansion in early cosmic history. It is so fast that in a fraction of a second a tiny subatomic speck of space is blown to dimensions much greater than the entire currently observable region. At the end of inflation, the energy that drove the expansion ignites a hot fireball of particles and radiation. This is what we call the big bang.
The end of inflation is triggered by quantum, probabilistic processes and does not occur everywhere at once. In our cosmic neighborhood, inflation ended 13.7 billion years ago, but it still continues in remote parts of the universe, and other “normal” regions like ours are constantly being formed. The new regions appear as tiny, microscopic bubbles and immediately start to grow. The bubbles keep growing without bound; in the meantime they are driven apart by the inflationary expansion, making room for more bubbles to form. This never-ending process is called eternal inflation. We live in one of the bubbles and can observe only a small part of it. No matter how fast we travel, we cannot catch up with the expanding boundaries of our bubble, so for all practical purposes we live in a self-contained bubble universe.
The theory of inflation explained some otherwise mysterious features of the big bang, which simply had to be postulated before. It also made a number of testable predictions, which were then spectacularly confirmed by observations. By now inflation has become the leading cosmological paradigm.
Another key aspect of the new worldview derives from string theory, which is at present our best candidate for the fundamental theory of nature. String theory admits an immense number of solutions describing bubble universes with diverse physical properties. The quantities we call constants of nature, such as the masses of elementary particles, Newton’s gravitational constant, and so on, take different values in different bubble types. Now combine this with the theory of inflation. Each bubble type has a certain probability to form in the inflating space. So inevitably, an unlimited number of bubbles of all possible types will be formed in the course of eternal inflation.
This picture of the universe, or multiverse, as it is called, explains the long-standing mystery of why the constants of nature appear to be fine-tuned for the emergence of life. The reason is that intelligent observers exist only in those rare bubbles in which, by pure chance, the constants happen to be just right for life to evolve. The rest of the multiverse remains barren, but no one is there to complain about that.
CONTINUED…Scientific American... . The Case for Parallel Universes Why the... more
This is super cool! Astronomers using a pair of sub-millimeter wavelength telescopes discovered the largest reservoir of water ever found in the Universe. The water-containing cloud was found near....
http://itgrunts.com/2011/07/25/astronomers-find-largest-water-reservoir-ever/This is super cool! Astronomers using a pair of sub-millimeter wavelength telescopes... more
Los Angeles Times...
NASA spacecraft offers detailed views of Saturn's Great White Spot
The Great White Spot, which occurs about once every 30 Earth years, is a windy, towering cloud of ammonia and water spewing out super jolts of thunder and lightning. The storm is about 10,000 times stronger than those on Earth.
PHOTO: An image of Saturn taken by NASA spacecraft Cassini shows the Great White Spot in the planet's northern hemisphere. (NASA / July 7, 2011)
By Daniela Hernandez, Los Angeles Times
July 6, 2011, 6:27 p.m.
Saturn's Great White Spot, a recurring storm on that planet that has intrigued scientists since it was first observed in 1876, is a windy, towering cloud of ammonia and water spewing out super jolts of thunder and lightning. Now astronomers and NASA's Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, have captured the most detailed views to date of the phenomenon.
The luminous storm, which may be the gaseous planet's main mechanism for dissipating heat, occurs about once every Saturnian year, the equivalent of about 30 Earth years. The storms, however, do not follow a precise schedule. The latest round, the most intense on record, was first noticed by ground-based professional and amateur astronomers as a bright speck on Saturn's northern hemisphere on Dec. 5, about nine years before schedule. The previous storm occurred in 1990.
Their observations coincided with Cassini's detection of a deluge of radio waves emitted by Saturn. These radio waves are a signature of lightning and can be used as a measure of its strength.
During the days that followed, that small blemish, moving westward about 65 mph, grew to a size nearly equal to the diameter of the Earth. Two months later, the behemoth had blanketed the entire planet, spanning more than 180,000 miles.
"It turned into a very spectacular storm, with so many [lightning flashes] we couldn't resolve individual ones," said Donald Gurnett, a physicist at the University of Iowa and a contributing author of one of two reports published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
This massive eruption of lightning is caused when heat and water vapor rise from deep within Saturn's atmosphere up to its troposphere, the region of the atmosphere where weather occurs. When that water vapor cools and condenses, it releases heat and, under the right conditions, produces lightning.
The lightning on Saturn originates deep inside the planet's atmosphere, where vapors are at higher pressure. That makes the lightning very intense.
The images and measurements gave scientists new insight into the shape of the current Great White Spot. As water vapor and ammonia were pushed to the troposphere by vertical currents, some of the materials were dragged by eastern winds, creating the storm's characteristic "head" and straggling "tail," both of which are visible from Earth.
First author Agustin Sanchez-Lavega, a planetary scientist at the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, and his colleagues were able to estimate that the storm's head, where most of the lightning was concentrated, extended about 160 miles below the cloud tops. Because the sun doesn't shine there, this suggests that the planet's internal heat helps the storms to form, the scientists wrote.
Great White Spots are 10 times larger than normal storms on Saturn and are about 10,000 times stronger than those on Earth. They occur seasonally due to changes in how much sunlight reaches Saturn. Scientists still don't fully understand the interplay between solar energy and Saturn's internal stores in generating these storms.Los Angeles Times... NASA spacecraft offers detailed views of Saturn's Great... more
Exlusive interview with Bruce Tsurutani, space weather specialist at NASA's JPL, on the Solar minimum“Every little piece of new knowledge is used by space agencies around the world to design new instrumentation to probe the unknown and unexplained. For example, who would have thought that the location of where coronal holes are on the Sun would be important for space weather effects?”
Asking questions in order to find answers and, of course, create a new path for new questions: This is the job of Bruce Tsurutani, a space weather scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Tsurutani is in charge for the JPL to monitor solar activity and reveal the effects of wind and sun flares on Earth. Professor Tsurutani, awarded in 2009 the John A. Fleming Medal, and has spent much of his 40-year career on understanding the Sun-Earth connection and interplanetary physics.
He is the lead author of the paper “The solar and interplanetary causes of the recent minimum in geomagnetic activity,” co-authored by professors Walter Gonzalez and Ezequiel Echer.
In an exclusive interview interview, Professor Tsurutani describes what the solar minimum means for the planet and the solar system, how a magnetic storm can destroy or damage the human devices, and what are the studies run by NASA and U.S. governmental agencies in order to predict possible scenarios and the subsequent remedies.
Doctor Tsurutani, as the lead author of the paper “The solar and interplanetary causes of the recent minimum in geomagnetic activity,” can you explain what is the main or key result of your research?
The efforts of my two Brazilian colleagues, Profs. Echer and Gonzalez, and myself is to understand all facets of how the sun affects us here on Earth. We have previously studied two other phases of the 11 year solar (sunspot) cycle: solar maximum and the declining phase. Now we have starting to study the solar minimum phase.
Our main result was to explain how this record low geomagnetic activity at Earth occurred. We found that the coronal holes were small and placed at midlatitude locations on the sun and there were extremely low solar magnetic fields. The former is a poor location for solar wind impingement on the Earth (which is in the ecliptic plane) to occur. All of this was made possible by a very nice paper on coronal hole evolution written by G. de Toma. This stimulated our thinking.
What is the correlation between the solar wind and the 'solar minimum'?
During solar minimum (late 2008) the average solar wind speed detected at Earth was still high. Six months to a year later, the average speeds were much lower. So there was a delay of the solar wind speed decrease from solar minimum. However the speed of the solar wind coming from coronal holes on the sun did not change. It was just the location of the coronal holes that did. Does this happen every solar cycle? Probably so. But more research is needed to determine whether this hypothesis is correct or not. What in the interior of the Sun makes these coronal holes appear at middle latitudes? At this time we do not know.
What is the 'solar minimum' impact on our daily life and the impact on our space devices, like satellites?
Actually we now know that during solar minimum the environment is quite benign. There are no (or at least very few) solar flares or enhancements of the Van Allen radiation belts that could impact satellites. This would be a good time for space travel! There should not be any impacts to our daily lives (except beautiful auroras will be hard to find!).
How can solar wind affect the solar system mechanics?
The pressure from the solar wind is quite weak and has little effect on the solar system as it is today. However the distant past may be a different story.
The magnetic interactions are vital in our understanding of the universe; how does your research as a space weather specialist help to improve that knowledge?
Yes, space weather scientists now know that magnetic interactions is the most important mechanism for solar flares on the sun as well as energy transfer from the solar wind to the Earth’s magnetosphere. In 1859, R. Carrington made the first well-documented observation of a solar flare. He also made reference to a magnetic storm at Earth. From this, Profs. G. Lakhina and S. Alex of the Indian Institute of Geomagnetism, Prof. Gonzalez and I studied the solar and interplanetary causes of this storm — by far the largest ever recorded at Earth. We have never seen anything close to this intensity in our lifetimes. We did this as part of our solar maximum phase study. Magnetic interactions were presumed to take place both at the sun and at Earth.
Luckily, because this was such a huge event, scientists at the time took note and wrote papers on the fires set, electrical shocks that happened, and the brilliant auroral displays that occurred at Earth. This old information were used in our study. In 1859 the world was in a state of low technology in comparison to today. The “high tech” device at the time was the telegraph. NASA together with other U.S. governmental agencies are presently studying what would happen if a magnetic storm of Carrington intensity happened again today? Would power grids go out? Could satellites come down? Would the radiation from the solar flare and the Van Allen belts damage spaceborne electronics? The U.S. plans to be prepared in case something of this magnitude happens again.
Magnetic interactions are also important for laboratory plasma physics and astrophysics as well. Space weather scientists meet with plasma fusion physicists and astrophysicists on a regular basis to compare ideas and observations.
Have results of recent scientific investigations led to improvements that can be used in the near future on solar facilities?
Definitely. Every little piece of new knowledge is used by space agencies around the world to design new instrumentation to probe the unknown/unexplained. For example, who would have thought that the location of where coronal holes are on the Sun would be important for space weather effects? Now that it is known that this is important for geomagnetic activity at Earth, scientists will attempt to explain this.
What would happen if coronal holes disappeared altogether? Or the solar magnetic field became even weaker? Do we know enough about the interior of the Sun to be able to predict when this could happen, and for how long? This is the goal for all of us working in the field.“Every little piece of new knowledge is used by space agencies around the world... more
Jun 22, 2011
The scale and significance of solar electromagnetic disturbances is being reevaluated.
“The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium—that is, of any extension of ourselves—result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”
--- Marshall McLuhan
According to a recent press release, an immense eruption on the Sun encompassed almost an entire hemisphere. The extraordinary plasma discharge prompted this response from Karel Schrijver of Lockheed Martin's Solar and Astrophysics Lab in Palo Alto, California: "The August 1st event really opened our eyes. We see that solar storms can be global events, playing out on scales we scarcely imagined before."
The massive coronal mass ejection (CME) demonstrated that solar explosions are interconnected by magnetic fields reaching out for thousands of miles. The Great Eruption (as it was called) was composed of several smaller components: solar flares, filaments, and CMEs that spanned 180 degrees of solar longitude and lasted for 28 hours.
CMEs typically spew plasma in the billions of tons throughout the Solar System. A signature of CME ejections is an increase in auroral brightness and frequency on Earth. The ejections are composed of charged particles, and are attracted to and follow Earth's polar magnetic cusps. A few CMEs have been observed to leave the Sun with unexpected acceleration: velocities more than 70,000 kilometers per second have been clocked.
The fact that events on the Sun should be influenced by one another does not seem surprising when the Electric Star model is considered. Magnetic fields have been detected in galaxies, meaning that electric currents must flow through them in circuits. There is no other way to create a magnetic field other than the movement of electric current in a conductive medium.
Magnetic forces constrict currents into filaments, which twist around each other and "pinch" galactic plasma into balls, pulling matter together until internal pressure balances the so-called "electromagnetic z-pinch" pressure. This pinch effect is far more powerful than gravity, and can gather matter from hundreds of light-years away, forming stars like beads along the galactic filaments.
The surface of a star like the Sun generates multiple loop structures that rise up from its surface and penetrate its plasma sheath, or double layer region of the Sun, where most of its electrical energy is contained. When the current flowing into the Sun's plasma sheath increases beyond a certain point it can trigger a sudden release of energy, otherwise known as a CME.
As Electric Universe advocate Don Scott makes clear, powerful looping electric currents generate secondary toroidal magnetic fields. If the current grows too strong, the plasma double layer is destroyed. That event interrupts the current flow and the stored electromagnetic energy is blasted into space.
It is not surprising to Electric Universe proponents that conditions on the Sun are governed by interconnected magnetic fields, and, by extension, electric currents.
Stephen SmithJun 22, 2011 The scale and significance of solar electromagnetic disturbances is... more