Here comes the Sun

Aug 2013


Courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams

Something big is about to happen on the Sun. According to measurements from NASA-supported observatories, the sun’s vast magnetic field is about to flip.

“It looks like we’re no more than 3 to 4 months away from a complete field reversal,” says solar physicist Todd Hoeksema of Stanford University. “This change will have ripple effects throughout the solar system.”

After reading this I looked through the window at a cloudy winter sky. In 3 – 4 months the smiles are supposed to be returning to our faces here in the Southern Hemisphere just like the Beatles promised. Now it seems we are in for some stormy space weather.

How much will this event effect us here on Earth this time?

Every eleven years (give or take a year or two) the Sun goes through a sunspot cycle which is linked to magnetic forces. Now what have magnetic forces got to do with pole reversals?

Reading up on the Parker Solar Dynamo Theory, only to learn that the theory was flawed, I proceeded to the Babcock-Leighton Model until I hit the sentence: Unfortunately it could not offer a prediction…..

OK so now I’ve wasted some time but not to be deterred I googled until I found written in bold: And the answer is….

ah ha!
Two separate processes seem to be going on: The Local Dynamo and the Global Dynamo. Before attaching major significance to a whole lot of really weird terms like the Tachocline and helioseismometry data from SOHO, I scrolled down to the bottom of the page just to make sure I was on the right track. “There are still many details to be worked out….”

While the physicists work on the many details, Kid’s Astronomy gives a nice explanation. Solar Magnetic Field reversals occur more or less every eleven years and at a time when solar activity is at its peak. Solar storms travel through space towards Earth. Energy and radiation from solar flares and coronal mass ejections can harm astronauts, damage electronics on satellites, cause the most beautiful auroras blackouts on Earth by surges in power grids.

There have been predictions that the upcoming solar storm will outdo the 1859 Carrington Event, a super storm so intense that the Northern Lights could be seen from Rome!

Should I book a ticket to Rome or will media headlines change from Something big is about to happen on the Sun to Something is about to happen on the big Sun.

Well seeing that the Sun’s magnetic field has flipped 5.5 times before in my lifetime, for now I might as well carry on humming: Here comes the sun, here comes the sun and I say it’s all right, sun, sun, sun, here it comes

Sunset Apparition

Aug 2010

Sunset ApparitionWhen I prepare for an evening’s stargazing, I always keep a watchful eye on the clouds. I acknowledge their beauty, remain friendly, give them time to show off their glorious sunset gowns  but when dusk settles in, I plead with them to go away until another day.
This is my ritual.
Something about yesterday was slightly different.

The wind was howling. The sunset was magnificent. The clouds rolled in and then as I looked through my viewfinder to take a photograph  I noticed “the apparition”.
I looked twice and thought no no, I am not going to be phased by this. “These clouds need to go away now! I am on a mission. Tonight  I need to see Orion rising over the mountain, the beautiful globular cluster of stars  in Tucana and far away galaxies  ”
The clouds dispersed slowly.
The wind kept howling but I took shelter. I must have been the only one outdoors when the International Space Station sailed across the sky  from west to east . I remembered to wave. Tumbling satellites flashed their signals. Night creatures were stirring……….
It was around midnight that I directed my telescope at the Silver Coin Galaxy – 10 million light years away. What a magnificent sight to behold.
This object was first discovered by Caroline Herschel way back in 1783 and there I was discovering it all over again in the night sky over Betty’s Bay.
Mmm, what a considerate apparition!