Monday, July 12, 2004

Stormy Weather

The "smiling, fiery orb" at the center of our solar system sometimes throws tantrums! Last autumn, solar storms and massive coronal mass ejections spewed blazing-hot gas and radiation in all directions. When a wave of ejected solar radiation reaches Earth, it can cause disruption of electrical power lines and communication satellites. But ejections can also result in spectacular Northern (and Southern) Lights!

This recent article in New Scientist highlights how far humanity has spread itself across the solar system. Humans have themselves not traveled farther than our own moon, but our robotic eyes and ears are everywhere! These most recent sun-storms were detected and measured by the Mars Odyssey spacecraft orbiting Mars, the Ulysses craft near Jupiter, Cassini on its approach to Saturn, and even the Voyager probes (!) at the far reaches of the solar system.

See this NASA animation for a dramatic demonstration of the power of the Sun's power as well our ability to observe it from all angles.