Plasma Protection From Sun Burn.

I was just reading an MIT article on how the Earth has a plasma shield that protects it from Solar storms

Scientists and MIT and NASA where observing the magnetosphere when they noticed that when the Earth’s magnetic field comes into contact with the sun’s magnetic field the protection gets even stronger.
This  region scientists call the “merging point,” forms an extra barrier around us and slows the harmful radiation from the Sun and forces it into a plasma river.
Every time I read something like this is just makes me realize how beautifully fragile our little planet is.  A delicate balance of cosmic forces keeping us alive an self destructive as every.  It makes you wonder if everyone knows how close to catastrophe the Earth is every day.
I think Griffith Jenkins Griffith, famous in Los Angeles for donating Griffith Park and creating the Griffith Observatory in the park, stated it best when he said “Man’s sense of values ought to be revised. If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world!”

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Silence Falls.

For those of you that are Dr. Who fans, the title might have some extra meaning, but I am referring to the strange and sudden silence of the Sun.

The Sun has a cyclic period of activity that normally repeats every 11 years or so.  We are currently in solar cycle 24 of the modern era.

Solar flare

Not only are we in this cycle, but we are at solar maximum, where the most activity by the Sun usually occurs.  Lots of sunspots, flares, coronal mass ejections and the like.

But apart from the odd event, like some recent solar flares, the Sun has been very quiet.  The drop off in activity is happening very quickly, and scientists are now watching closely to see if activity will continue to decline.  The last time that the Sun was this quiet was in the 17th century, in a period known as the Maunder Minimum.

An analysis of ice-cores, which hold a long-term record of solar activity, suggests the decline in activity is the fastest that has been seen in 10,000 years.

Why would another Maunder Minimum be bad?  Well the last time this happened, the world, but especially Europe because of the effects this type of event has on the jet stream, entered into a mini ice age.  This could be a bad thing or a good thing depending on how it plays out.  Due to man made climate change, this new Maunder Minimum could be a lot more severe which would affect agriculture and other food supply areas.  On the other hand, the polar ice caps have been melting at an alarming rate and this event would probably restore them.  There isn’t enough data to figure out what is happening or what the results will be, but in a few years we may be bundling up here in Southern California for the harsh winters.  Dang, that would mean I’d have to move farther south.  So let’s just hope this isn’t a run up to another ice age.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Oh, The Places We’ve Been (https://plus.google.com/+KevinGill/posts/bGA7kwn48f5)

I found this amazing graphic (below) that shows where humans have ventured from the planet.

Kevin Gill used his very own creation, the Orbit Viewer WebGL, and data from the NASA/JPL Horizons ephemeris.

First, the program is very impressive itself (props to Kevin) and the graphics are incredible.

If you would like to play with Kevin’s program you can check it out here.  It is really amazing.

You can find the original article here.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

An ISON Precursor?

Although most of the US Government is shutdown, the robotic telescopes (unlike the drones in Washington) kept on working.

Tiny Comets Make Double Death Dives Into the Sun (Video)

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft captured images of two small comets plunging into the Sun in the past couple of days.  Neither of the comets was very large, only about 33 feet in diameter according to estimates.  But could the same fate await ISON?

Comet ISON In Sight! Amateur Astronomers Spot Potential 'Comet of the Century'

As ISON approaches the Sun, and gets brighter (I am going to image it again this weekend), we will know more about its trajectory.  That will let us know whether or not it will pass harmlessly by the Sun, or plunge to its demise like these two unfortunate lumps of ice and dust.

Early estimates had ISON passing about 850,000 miles from the Sun.  However, the most recent estimates are that it will pass within 730,000 miles (1.2 million km) of the Sun’s surface around November 28.  At first that would seem to be a good safe distance, but the Sun is at about solar maximum right now a who knows?  A big flare, a coronal mass ejection and it could be all over for poor ISON.

No matter what, it appears that this is a one time trip for ISON.  Its trajectory has it leaving the system, never to return.  If you want to see the coolest, model of ISON go here.  The also have other fantastic interactive models.  If you are a teach, this is one resource you should check out.

Right now ISON has been kind of a dud (still fun to watch and images, but meh).  Personally, since this really isn’t the “comet of the decade,” that everyone originally thought, I am hoping for something to happen so that science can find out something new.  Break apart, fall into the Sun…something…anything.  This is your one chance to be spectacular!  Don’t blow it!  Oh, if I only controlled the cosmic coincidence department.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

The Sun’s Magnetic Field Is About to Flip

According to measurements from NASA’s solar observatories, the sun’s magnetic field is about to flip.

nasa-sun-magnetic-field-to-flip-reverse-emp-sunspots-power-failure-blackout-august-2013

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


The sun’s magnetic field changes polarity approximately every 11 years. It happens at the peak of each solar cycle as the sun’s inner magnetic dynamo re-organizes itself. The coming reversal will mark the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24. Half of “solar max” will be behind us, with half yet to come.

Solar physicist Phil Scherrer, also at Stanford, describes what happens: “The sun’s polar magnetic fields weaken, go to zero and then emerge again with the opposite polarity. This is a regular part of the solar cycle.”

When solar physicists talk about solar field reversals, their conversation often centers on the “current sheet.” The current sheet is a sprawling surface jutting outward from the sun’s equator where the sun’s slowly rotating magnetic field induces an electrical current.  During field reversals, the current sheet becomes very wavy. Scherrer likens the undulations to the seams on a baseball. As Earth orbits the sun, we dip in and out of the current sheet. Transitions from one side to another can stir up stormy space weather around our planet.


Cosmic rays are also affected. These are high-energy particles accelerated to nearly light speed by supernova explosions and other violent events in the galaxy. Cosmic rays are a danger to astronauts and space probes, and some researchers say they might affect the cloudiness and climate of Earth. The current sheet acts as a barrier to cosmic rays, deflecting them as they attempt to penetrate the inner solar system. A wavy, crinkly sheet acts as a better shield against these energetic particles from deep space.
As the field reversal approaches, data from Wilcox show that the sun’s two hemispheres are out of synch.

 

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman

Elvis Has Left The Building…And So Has Voyager 1.

The phrase “Elvis has left the building” was a phrase used by public address announcers following Elvis Presley concerts to disperse audiences who lingered on in hopes of seeing the king.

Well it appears that Voyager 1 appears to have left our solar system and entered interstellar space according to University of Maryland researchers.

The still-operational spacecraft has traveled farther from Earth than any other human-made object.

As always the UMD scientist state that “It’s a somewhat controversial view, but we think Voyager has finally left the Solar System, and is truly beginning its travels through the Milky Way.”

Why the confusion?  Well unlike the well defined (/<begin>sarcasm/<end>) boarders found on Earth, it seems that interstellar space is very fluid.

But according to the model created at UMD which indicates Voyager 1 actually entered interstellar space a little more than a year ago.

nasalogo

NASA and other scientists beg to differ, suggesting the spacecraft is still in a fuzzily-defined transition zone between the Sun’s sphere of influence and the rest of the galaxy.

At issue is what the boundary-crossing should look like to Earth-bound observers 11 billion miles (18 billion kilometers) away.

The Sun’s heliosphere, is relatively well-understood as the region of space dominated by the magnetic field and charged particles emanating from our star.

The heliopause transition zone is both of unknown structure and location. According to conventional wisdom, we’ll know we’ve passed through this mysterious boundary when we stop seeing solar particles and start seeing galactic particles, and we also detect a change in the prevailing direction of the local magnetic field.

So, Voyager 1 may just be faking out its audience to have its own private concert with the Universe.  Whenever it happens, it will be a first for mankind.

– Ex astris, scientia –

I am and avid amateur astronomer and intellectual property attorney in Pasadena, California and I am a Rising Star as rated by Super Lawyers Magazine.  As a former Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, I am a proud member of the Armed Service Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association working to aid all active duty and veterans in our communities. Connect with me on Google +

Norman