An explainer starring Neil deGrasse Tyson, Wil Wheaton, LeVar Burton, and other space celebrities.
This afternoon, NASA made a big announcement: Its Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched from Earth 36 years ago, has entered interstellar space. Nerds the world over — your correspondent included — proceeded to freak out. This is big.
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 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.
Hoeksema is the director of Stanford’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, one of the few observatories in the world that monitors the sun’s polar magnetic fields. The poles are a herald of change. Just as Earth scientists watch our planet’s polar regions for signs of climate change, solar physicists do the same thing for the sun. Magnetograms at Wilcox have been tracking the sun’s polar magnetism since 1976, and they have recorded three grand reversals — with a fourth in the offing.
“The asteroid packed a huge punch, the power of 20 Hiroshima bombs. It was a “city buster,” capable of flattening a modern metropolis and reducing it to rubble. It was a miracle that the asteroid exploded roughly 10 to 15 miles above ground: had there been a ground burst, it would have caused tens of thousands of casualties. If that asteroid had hit just a few seconds later, it would have created a tragedy on Earth.”—Michio Kaku - Asteroid Apocalypse? Why Scientists Worry About 2036’s ‘Planet Buster’
I was unaware of the fact that it was so large and that it would have been such a problem if it would have struck ground. Fascinating. (via therecipe)
“It was an amazing spectacle, a rapid succession of giant asteroids blazing across the sky. First, on February 15, Russia was hit with the biggest asteroid in 100 years. Barely a few hours later, an even bigger one made the closest approach to Earth ever recorded for an asteroid of its size. Then the residents of San Francisco, Cuba, and south Florida looked up and saw meteors streak across the sky, rattling their nerves.”—Michio Kaku - Asteroid Apocalypse? Why Scientists Worry About 2036’s ‘Planet Buster’
At least 400 people have been injured after a meteor shower over central Russia blew out windows, interior ministry sources say. Brightly burning rocks could be seen for hundreds of kilometres as they crashed into the Ural region - BBC News
I know that last post about a possible habitable planet isn’t solar system related but you know, amazing news such as the higgs boson being detected, Curiosity landing on Mars (in bad ass fashion!), and any news about H20 or possible life, is a MUST BLOG.
Michio Kaku, the theoretical physicist, made an atom smasher in his garage when he was in high school. Man, what in the heck was I doing in high school? Not this. Certainly not this. I barely knew what an atom was, that’s for sure.
"I asked my mother for permission to build a 2.3-million electron volt particle accelerator in the garage. She was a bit startled but gave me the okay." [from Physics of the Future, pg. 2]
He goes on to note that he frequently blew out all the fuses in his home.
If you are feeling down today, this simple fact will surely cheer you up: Except for hydrogen and helium, all the atoms in our bodies, our planet, and our solar system were created more than 5 billion years ago in exploding stars.