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Vital Information for Your Everyday Life
It's time for one of those rare instances when the planets and star of the universe align in a certain way that none of us will ever see again in our lifetimes. Unless we have time lords among us, of course. The transit of Venus, which means that we Earthlings will be able to observe Venus moving across the face of the Sun, is happening over the course of seven hours today (tomorrow for the Eastern hemisphere) and it won't happen again until 2117. But how are we mere mortals supposed to observe such a thing when we've been told all our lives that looking into the Sun was bad? Here's how you can look into the Sun. (But not the trap. Seriously, don't look into the trap, Egon.)Read More
Imagine, if you will, a vicious tornado. Now imagine it's made out of fire. Now imagine that it's several times the size of Earth. Finally, that it's in space. Allow me the great pleasure of informing you that what you just imagine exists on the Sun. That's right, there are mammoth fire tornadoes on the sun, enormous, flaming sun tornadoes. These absurd solar windstorms were spotted by some researchers in the UK using the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly telescope mounted on the Solar Dynamic Observatory (SDO) satellite. Somewhere, Micheal Bay is kicking himself for not coming up with sun tornadoes on his own.Read More
A huge solar flare that has erupted from the Sun has unleashed a massive solar storm that is headed toward Earth, and predicted to reach us tomorrow morning around 7 AM EST. A storm as powerful as this one hasn't been seen in more than five years, and the effects of which are predicted to last 24 hours after the storm hits. It's possible that the storm will cause interference with satellites in orbit and power grids on Earth, but people in the know don't seem too worried. The above video of the solar flare, captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, is a gorgeous side effect of potentially dealing with interrupted power grids tomorrow. Good trade-off, right?Read More
Recent reports presented at the American Astronomical Society meeting suggest that the sun may be heading into a period of less magnetic activity with fewer sunspots. Some proponents of this theory believe that the next solar minimum (a normal period of decreased solar activity) may be particularly long, lasting for several decades.Analysis of a missing jet stream in the solar interior, fading sunspots on the sun's visible surface, and changes in magnetic activity of the corona and near the poles suggest that an inactive period may be on the way. But the studies presented are a long way off from receiving scientific consensus. In fact, as Andrew Revkin of Dot Earth points out, there those in the astronomical community who think the evidence presented does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that there will be a long solar minimum. So then media reports of a solar minimum that would solve the climate change crisis, come as a bit of a surprise. Read More
The Sun is no stranger to solar flares (explosions of magnetic energy) or prominence eruptions (gas bursting from the surface) but the combination solar flare/prominence eruption that recently exploded on the Sun has created an astonishing and visually remarkable eruption.
The video of the explosion was captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. According to Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy the explosion could have blasted a billion tons of material away from the Sun in a plume as big as the Sun itself at perhaps over a million kilometers across.
From the video, it appears that plasma was released from the Sun's surface, in a fountain of particles that spread outward and then collapsed back down to the Sun. Blasts like this are capable of shooting material away into space, but Earthlings needn't worry. This particular blast was aimed away from Earth (as are most events like this.)Read More
In case you needed more proof that the sun is not the smiling, yellow, jolly ball in the sky that you saw in your childhood coloring books, take a look at the video above. In it, a comet flies straight into the sun, but the massive orb of flaming gas more-or-less responsible for the beginning and continuation of life on this planet doesn't even flinch. That big burst? Just a coronal mass ejection that occurred coincidentally. The comet is probably from the Kreutz group, the remnants of a larger comet that broke up when it cruised to close to the all-consuming death ball in the center of our solar system. While this kind of event probably happens all the time, that doesn't make it any less impressive. (NASA via Gizmodo)Read More
[...] see that sunspot cluster on the left? It looks to be about the same apparent size as the ISS… but it actually spans a region as big as Jupiter!(Alan Friedman via Discover Magazine) Read More
For the first time in human history, we can see what's going on on both sides of the Sun at once, thanks to NASA. In 2006, the space agency launched two probes into space, jointly called STEREO (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory), to monitor the Sun; now that both are in position, we can see the front and back of the Sun simultaneously, and will be able to do so for the next eight years. Unlike the Moon, which has a so-called "dark side" never visible from Earth, we see the Sun's entire surface over the course of a month. But being able to see front and back at the same time is a big help; not only does it mean we won't be surprised by a damaging solar flare, but it gives us more data for understanding how the big ol' ball of stellar nucleosynthesis works. Phil Plait explains:
Events that happen anywhere on the Sun can have a ripple effect everywhere else… literally. A solar flare is a vast explosion on the Sun’s surface, releasing as much energy in a few minutes as millions or even billions of nuclear bombs. This sends gigantic seismic waves, ripples, across the Sun’s surface, affecting other regions. Gigantic coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are like hurricanes over the Sun, and the region causing one can extend onto the far side of the Sun where we can’t see it. Solar prominences and other features can be huge, stretching across the face of the Sun, again hiding part from view. And, of course, in astronomy more is better. Having a better view, a better vantage point, just plain ol’ more data, is a big help.Nifty video below: Read More
Well, if you thought you were too nerdy to be a part of Super Bowl Sunday, how about this: A robot. Named R2. Will be featured in the pre-show at 2:00 PM EST on Fox. Why? Because R2 (full name: Robonaut 2) is going to be the first humanoid robot to travel into space. And that's not the only awesome space-related event of the day. Today, we're going to see pictures of the entire sun for the first time ever.Read More
From OKCupid's recent post on the differences between straight and gay sexuality comes this question with an inexplicable gender gap: Which is bigger: The Earth or the Sun?" About 5% of men say "the Earth"; about 10% of women say "the Earth." Christian Rudder:
Down in the database I discovered one question with a surprising disparity, not between orientations, but between genders. Like Frodo to the Balrog, I wished I'd never unearthed it.642,533 users is a robust data set, and OKCupid has a reputation for approaching number-crunching earnestly and professionally, even if they use their wealth of data to address oddball or controversial questions. Without resorting to ugly gender-based name-calling, how do you explain this? Do any appreciable number of these people across genders actually believe that the Earth is bigger, or is this some mix of trolling/irony/people being drunk when they're answering OKCupid questions? Do some small number women think that it makes them more desirable to men to act 'ditzy' and ignorant of such basic facts? How, then, to explain the similar result among gay women? Many mysteries. (OKCupid) Read More
This is the sun. For a long time, it was sleepy, lying idly in the sky, keeping us warm and cozy here on Earth. Well, now the sun is waking up after its slumber, and it wants us to know. So it's spitting at us, via a coronal mass ejection. The sun's surface erupted, sending huge amounts of plasma into space ... toward us. For reference in the image above, the eruption is the dark arc near the top of the star, not the bright patch nearer the middle. But don't worry, everyone. While the sun can and someday will bring about the apocalypse, this isn't that moment. There will be pros and cons to this event, which should start as soon as tonight and last into tomorrow. Let's start with the bad news: Some satellite communications could be disrupted. The good news: Light show! This kind of plasma attack could create a geomagnetic storm, which sounds terrifying, but would really just mean we'd get to see the Northern Lights, except they'd be all over the lower 48 states.Read More
In 2009, Romain Corraze, a young French recent MBA graduate, took it upon himself to travel around the world for one year. During the course of that year, he passed through 31 countries and "enjoyed every single sunset as if it was the last one."The beautiful video below records some of the best sunrises and sunsets he saw in countries from Mexico to China, Australia to Belgium, the USA to Mongolia. Read More
Inuvik is one of the most northerly towns in Canada, and as such, it's subject to great variations in sunlight throughout the year. According to Wikipedia, "Due to its northern location, Inuvik experiences an average of 56 days of continuous sunlight every summer and 30 days of polar night every winter." Also: temperatures approach -40 degrees Celsius (which happens to convert to -40 degrees Fahrenheit).
This not only makes Inuvik a prime target for hibernal vampires, but it also makes for rather gloomy winters. In a cool promotion for its "Brighter Mornings" campaign and its new juice line, Tropicana Essentials with added vitamin D and calcium, Tropicana went into Inuvik for a month with a 36-foot-wide, 100,000 lumen artificial sun:Read More
We've previously written about the impending resignation of Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz. Well, it's no impending: Schwartz has gone out with a haiku -- on Twitter, of course. “Today’s my last day at Sun. I’ll miss it. Seems only fitting to end on a #haiku. Financial crisis/Stalled too many customers/CEO no more.”Read More
Sun Microsystems' CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, is stepping down, according to John Paczkowski of AllThingsD. This comes just before this Wednesday's announcement of Oracle's master plan for its newly acquired fief. As the impending takeover begins to look less like an acquisition and more like an annexation,what does it mean for the State of the Tech World?