Great stuff you should read

This will be a running list of great essays or articles I’ve come across and want to promote.  Some I find fascinating, some are funny (at least to me), many will conjure up images that I think are (from a literacy perspective) rich and memorable.

A year of images of the sun merged into one amazing photo Go ahead and click on the link and you will see the sun as you’ve never seen it before – well, unless you study such things.

I was tempted to make a copy of this photo for sharing on this page, but I not sure of the copyright restrictions and frankly there is better technical information than I should be trusted over on the website.

Many – many years ago, I learned some things about the physics of the sun.  If you’ve paid any attention to the study of the sun, you know about those huge events known as solar flares where for some reason (well beyond the scope of this short paragraph) the sun throws enormous amounts of material up away from the surface in a hug arc that brings most of the material right back down.  These events also create huge amounts of radiation that washes over the earth and mess with our power grids and radio spectrum.

What you may not have had any reason to know, is that if you regard the sun as you would a globe, the sun has north and south poles as well as an equator.  This composite photo overlays a year worth of photos showing where these gigantic flares occur.  Oddly – they avoid both thirds of the sun near either poles and the equator.

The reasons for this are also way to complex for this short piece, and I wouldn’t trust myself to get it right anyway, but the engine behind this phenomenon is the magnetic field that, like the Earth’s, flows through both poles and then out into space to surround us in a protective blanket of magnetic energy.  For us, this field actually deflects lots of nasty solar radiation that would otherwise kill everything alive aboard the Earth.

Around the Sun however, this much larger magnetic field is much more dynamic and, I would argue unstable because a map of the magnetic lines of flux which are so stable around our Earth, on the sun change over the years and tie themselves in what looks like knots and helps cause these eruptions of  burning material.  When the knots get to a certain degree of complexity, the magnetic flux lines snap back to their original clean lay out that looks much more like our own.

I think I’ve said enough about the physics of this, but I celebrate the work of scientists who decided to produce such a compelling composite photo that begs us to figure out what exactly is going on with our nearest star – the same one we need to change very little year after year.

It’s right there in our sky each day and we need it to survive, yet we know so little about it.  On the other hand, if it began to misbehave somehow, We certainly don’t have the means to correct it.

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Autobiographical fun in 10 minutes or less

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