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edu Sunspots The first recorded observations of sunspots were made by Chinese astronomers. The two earliest records of sunspot observations are found in a Chinese book, the Book of Changes, dating back to about 800BC or earlier. Much more complete Chinese records began in 165BC. (Source: http://www.cora.nwra.com/~werne/eos/text/galileo.html)
History of Solar Discoveries
The first sunspot drawing that still exists (above) can be found in a book called the Chronicles of John of Worcester. The observation dates to 8 December 1128, and shows the sunspot's umbra and penumbra. The accompanying text reads, "...from morning to evening, appeared something like two black circles within the disk of the Sun, the one in the upper part being bigger, the other in the lower part smaller. As shown on the drawing." (Source: http://www.cora.nwra.com/~werne/eos/text/galileo.html) Observations of the Sun through telescopes began in 1610. Galileo noticed dark spots on the Sun one misty evening at sunset and became curious. Galileo used these spots to calculate the rotation rate of the Sun, coming up with a rotation period of about 25 days. Astronomers throughout Europe were doing the same thing with
their telescopes, tracking and recording these dark blotches marring the solar surface. (Sun Kings, p. 28) But what were sunspots? Christoph Scheiner from Germany thought that they were silhouettes of undiscovered planets. Galileo showed that this could not be true because of the strange way that sunspots moved. Galileo reasoned that this was the behavior of something affixed to the surface of a spinning ball. He could also see sunspots growing and shrinking in size, behavior that could not be attributed to a planet. The issue of sunspots and what they were provoked a somewhat emotional response at the time, as the prevailing belief was that the heavens were perfect and unchanging, a reflection of God. Galileo thought they were dark clouds in the solar atmosphere, other astronomers thought that it was dark slag (the leftovers from smelting metal) on the top of a gigantic natural furnace. In the 1700’s, Newton wrote that the Sun and Stars were “great Earths vehemently hot.” Leading people to think that there was a planet inside the Sun. People then thought that the spots were smoke preceding volcanic eruptions, or mountain revealed by the ebb and flow of the Sun’s fiery oceans. It was difficult to observe the Sun through the telescope, as it was likely an astronomer could go blind if not done properly. Larger telescope focused more light, even making it harder. William Herschel made an unpolished mirror that naturally scattered light, allowing for his solar telescopes to hold larger mirrors and see higher levels of detail. He saw that Sun’s surface looked more like an orange peel and that the black spots were actually depressions in the surface. This lead him to believe that they were openings, allowing astronomers to see the dark surface of the Sun below. (The Sun Kings, p. 30) He thought that the Sun’s atmosphere consisted of a transparent layer and a bright layer. He didn’t know why the atmosphere might glow, but he pointed to the aurora seen on Earth. He also thought the Sun was richly stocked with inhabitants. He also used the fact that mountain climbers experienced a drop in temperature as they increased in elevation (close to the Sun) to assert that the Sun was not actually hot. The Sun is Hot Eventually Herschel’s mind was changed when he tried placing different colors of glass in the light path of his telescope in an effort to reduce the light. He noticed that red glass stopped most of the light, but made the eye feel intolerable hot. (p. 34) Trying different colors lead him to the realization that not all colors created equal quantities of heat, which was the prevailing belief at the time. Some scientists believed he was a rambling fool, but after a controlled experiment in which Herschel displayed the Sun’s light on the wall through a prism and measured the temperatures of the different colors (while another thermometer in the room measured the ambient temperature), did people believe him. He even showed that the hottest part of the spectrum was an invisible area next to the red color.
Image Source: https://www.psu. a hot tenuous gas will produce an emission line spectrum.e‐ education. and a hot object with a cooler tenuous gas around it will create a spectrum with dark absorption lines. the Sun had to be incredibly hot (The Sun Kings.edu/astro801/book/export/html/1549 Solar Variability Going through his records in 1801.org/images/spectrum. Kirchhoff and Bunsen created pure samples for flame tests. 95 – 97). Fraunhofer cataloged solar spectral lines with great precision (The Sun Kings p. Kirchhoff figured out that a hot solid dense object will give off a continuous spectrum of light (image below). Image Source: http://www. p. Inventing the spectral grating in 1823. Joseph von Fraunhofer rediscovered the dark lines in the Sun’s spectrum. 93‐93). Fraunhofer died at just 37 years old. Herschel noticed that the number of sunspots seemed to come and go.rudraveena.jpg In 1814. Because they identified the elements on the Sun’s surface and it was well known that these metals could only be in a gas form at very high temperatures. He looked through scientific journals and identified possible periods over which he saw this variability. p. (The Sun Kings. but John Herschel (son of William Herschel) and William Fox Talbot realized that elements gave off unique spectral patterns. 36) . In 1859.
52). now proclaiming that transparent clouds of hot gas were welling up in the Sun and the sunspots were the result of this emission. and Singapore. In the 1740’s. in his hasty and erroneous theory concerning the influence of the solar spots on the price of grain. the Cape of Good Hope. Helena in the South Atlantic. Sabine’s wife was translating this book and George Sabine noticed the patter immediately. Since the publication of Gulliver’s voyage to Laputa. p. Humboldt was exploring. he arrived at a community that was wondering why the water levels in their lake were dropping. Humboldt saw his magnetic needles varying wildly and noted that aurora were in the sky. He tirelessly fought for expeditions to the southern hemisphere. p. In 1827. He didn’t have long‐term solar records. but he also had the position of the Earth’s magnetic equator. Bombay. which held land across the world. He saw that magnetic storms and sunspot numbers moved in lockstep. He noticed a pattern and. Van Dieman’s Land. He convinced Carl Friedrich Gauss to participate in the project. but he actually found the opposite. by 1843. Earth and Sky) . had enough to see a repeating pattern (The Sun Kings. Around 1802. nothing so ridiculous has ever been offered to the world. On the 21st of December. he thought that years with many sunspots (when the Sun was supposedly cooler) would have higher wheat prices. Simla. Hoirtier and Celsius had observed this same phenomenon. concerned about the effects that land clearing and agriculture had on the climate. 69). 69) In 1852. In 1840. 37) Herschel then flipped his original idea about sunspot. Back in Berlin in 1806. (The Sun Kings. Dublin. St. Humboldt began monitoring the daily movement of magnetic needles. Humboldt also worked with Russia and the British Empire. (The Sun Kings p. Those in the scientific community either did not listen or chose to criticize and even ridicule him. (The Sun. p. 57) Heinrich Schwabe began observing sunspots every day since 1825. Humboldt investigated and found that the forests they had been clearing helped trap moisture and increase rainfall.” The Beginning of the SunEarth Magnetic Connection In 1802. Toronto.The Sun and Climate or How Sunspots Affect the Sun’s Temperature Herschel became interested in the Sun’s affect on climate. magnetic stations were founded at Greenwich. Humboldt recognized the importance of being able to predict sunspots and published it in his book Kosmos. He measured the orientation of the Earth’s magnetic equator at the geographic equator. Madras. Colonel Edward Sabine was also greatly interested and joined the effort. Alexander von Humboldt was traveling in Peru. (The Sun Kings. In Venezuela. Humboldt organized a series of magnetic observatories around the globe (p. but he had a genius stroke to look at the price of wheat as a proxy for temperatures. The Edinborough Review stated that Herschel’s speculations were “all eclipsed by the grand absurdity which he has there committed. Edward Sabine showed that global magnetic fluctuations are synchronized with the Sun’s 11 year cycle.
com/wp‐ content/uploads/2009/08/Carrington_Richar d_sunspots_1859. (NY Times article source: . This differential rotation was proof that the Sun was a gaseous body and not a solid one. About 18 hours later. the Bahamas. Wires in the eyepiece cast the shadow of a grid onto the wall. He projected the Sun’s image onto a wall. Carrington had enough information to show that spots at higher latitudes moved more slowly than those at the equator. since astronomers could not seem to agree on a value.thenakedscientists. but the lights were dimming. He sketched the sunspot group and flare location (Image Source: http://astroguyz. 78) (Image Source: http://www. 1859. He returned 60 seconds later. checked that this was not a stray reflection. The New York Times reported that newsprint could be read by the auroral light. Richard Carrington was observing sunspots through his telescope as usual on September 1. They completely vanished at 11:23am. then ran to find a witness. two bright beads of searing white light appeared over a monstrous sunspot group (The Sun Kings. He sketched the sunspots. Starting in 1853.com/HTML/uploads/RTEmagicC_CarringtonObsTN S. then timed them as they crossed the grid lines. He was an extremely careful observer whose northern star catalog was published by the British admiralty with public funds because of its importance for navigation. trying to determine the Sun’s rotation period once and for all. In 1858. 83). At 11:18am. 77).jpg. and Hawaii. finding somewhere between 25 – 28 days (The Sun Kings.jpg).Solar Differential Rotation Richard Carrington of England set up his own observatory at Redhill. giant sparks or streams of fire flowed from the lines into the equipment and even into one poor soul’s forehead (though he recovered shortly after) (The Sun Kings. even as far south as Key West. Carrington applied his detail‐oriented technique to observing sunspots. He was surprised. (The Sun Kings p.jpg) Solar Flares and Solar Storms At 33 years old. the skies around the world burst into massive auroras. p. The aurora were seen almost everywhere across the globe. but then quickly noted the time. 12). Surrey. p. telegraph wires became inoperable. p.
scientists knew that aurora caused magnetic disturbances.http://query. September 1st and 2nd showed huge deviations in the Earth’s magnetic field (pictured below). Edward Walter Maunder was hired as an assistant at the Royal Observatory in England. was observing the Sun through his home observatory near Chicago. The next day. a graduate of MIT and later founder of the American Astronomical Society. Using James Clerk Maxwell’s new laws.html?res=9F05E6DB1638E033A25750C0A 96F9C946892D7CF&scp=27&sq=september+3%2C+1859&st=p) Up until now. 150) In 1872. It was an almost unthinkable thought that such a force could act over such a large distance so quickly. discounted this connection. p. (The Sun Kings.com/gst/abstract. George Ellery Hale. keeping doubt within the community.uk/images/carrington_images/hex572.geomag. 19) Despite Carrington’s observation and the response of Kew’s magnetic instruments. Maunder. Kelvin calculated the amount of energy that must be required by an explosion on the Sun to cause the magnetic effects we experience Image Source: http://www. Astronomers of high standing.jpg . such as George Airy. The magnetic instruments at the Kew Observatory captured the disturbance of the auroras. (The Sun Kings. Maunder decided that he would prove the link between magnetic storms and sunspots once and for all. (The Sun Kings. Working under the disapproving eye of Airy.ac. was fascinated with the Sun. who was not university educated.bgs. the sky burst into aurora and communications lines were disrupted. Lord Kelvin also decided to bring an end to this controversy once and for all. p.nytimes. In February of 1892. but not much more. He managed to capture a solar flare over a particularly large group of sunspots on film. p. 129) After the 1892 solar storm. astronomers continued to be wary of the magnetic connection between the Sun and the Earth.
162).jpg) Maunder and other. This was the same amount of time it took for the Sun to make a complete rotation. p. The amount of energy required in these flares was completely impossible.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a0/Birkeland‐terrella. . 93 million miles away. Maunder and his wife. p. however. Larmour came to Maunder’s defense and said that his mathematics were strong and the the tiny charged particles (electrons) he had been studying could likely be the carriers of force between the Sun and the Earth. Kelvin urged scientists to search for the real connection between auroras and magnetic storms.on Earth.wikipedia. p. 178) In 1903. (Image Source: http://en. p. In 1886. sweeping the same solar storm past Earth over and over again. 154). In 1860. 1904. (Sun. The sphere was enclosed in a vacuum to simulate space.wikimedia. Earth. source: http://upload. On November 11. Annie. knew that the statistical connection was irrefutable (The Sun Kings. 153) In 1892.jpg): Birkeland demonstrated the theory that electrons could flow along magnetic field to poles by sending an electron beam towards a magnetized sphere painted with phosphorescent light to show where the electrons struck. (The Sun Kings. Some astronomers questioned what mechanisms could make this possible and others came to Maunder’s defense (The Sun Kings. began digging through sunspot records and magnetic storm data. 178) Birkeland’s experiment 1896 (above. as it was impossible that they were caused by the Sun. showing that they occurred in an oval that was centered on the North Pole. as it was equivalent to four months of regular radiation coming from the Sun. Maunder finally found the evidence he was looking for. Maunder provided his indisputable proof. and Sky. and Sky p.org/wiki/File:Lord_Kelvin_photograph. (Sun. four storms separated by 27 days had been recorded. The glowing shapes reproduced many features of the aurora. Earth. in Kelvin’s reasoning. Elias Loomis (Yale) mapped out the geographic distribution of aurora.
Inside the Sun’s convection zone. Twisting causes the magnetic fields to become very concentrated. Ashe observed the same eclipse. Annie calculated that the streamers in the pictures extended 6 million miles into space. India to photograph an eclipse with Annie’s camera. (Image Source: http://www. On January 22nd. Annie Maunder captured the first image of the Sun’s corona on film (The Sun Kings. p. and what it might be was not further investigated. (Image Source: http://en. He was a bright flash from one side of the disk before the clouds closed in (The Sun Kings. 157). which appear as dark spots on the solar surface when observing in visible wavelengths. Kelvin and Airy’s naysaying delayed progress on this front for decades. In 1908. 1860.wikipedia. magnetic fields are kinked and twisted up by the motion of convective cells rising to the surface of the Sun and falling down again. a female computer hired to work at the Royal Observatory.png) Modern View of the Sun Sunspots The strongest magnetic fields on the solar surface are found in sunspots. went to Masur.org/wiki/File:Solar_eclipse_1898Jan22‐photo_wide.com/bps/media‐ view/141531/1/0/0) In Labrador. The photograph clearly shows solar prominences arching over the solar disk (The Sun Kings. 104 ‐ 108). Hale made the first detection of strong magnetic fields in sunspots and observers became familiar with the type of behavior to look for and the impending magnetic storms that would come the following day. p.britannica. 109). p. bringing its existence into question. but finally the evidence made the Sun‐Earth magnetic connection clear. Two hours later. strong and hold a lot of energy. The Corona and CMEs The first photograph taken of a totally eclipsed Sun was Warren De La Rue (who had been making photographic observations of the Sun for some time) from the Italian city of Rivabellosa on July 18. these twisted magnetic fields have actually . In 1898. the controversy began to shift. At the location of sunspots. Some astronomers did not notice this bubble. Maunder and his wife.Finally. N. astronomer R. Annie. observers in Spain saw what looked like a bubble extending from the Sun.
15th.kva. above sunspots is where flares and CMEs are born. it is actually a little bit hotter compared to a solar disk devoid of sunspots. the left image contains a sunspot group as viewed in visible light. (Image Source: www. In these areas. However. (http://c2h2.risen to the visible surface of the Sun (i. and a spot where the magnetic fields loops downwards. causing the region inside the sunspot to appear cooler and darker.php) Sunspots are created by magnetic loops that extend above the photosphere.hawaii.solarphysics.edu/Pages/Education/sun_activity. back into the solar surface (a magnetic south pole).ifa. Because the sunspots are created from magnetic loops. The magnetic loops above the sunspot heat the plasma of the corona. the magnetic fields hinder convection. In the images below. The localized strong magnetic fields that create sunspots interact with plasma in the Sun’s corona to create explosive events. sunspots always come in pairs – a spot where the magnetic field is going in an upward and outward direction (a magnetic north pole). the hot convective bubbles are blocked from reaching the surface.se/gallery/images/2002/c4877_color. The places where the sunspots form are called the footpoints of the magnetic loops.gif) . 2011). The image on the right (Image Source: JHelioviewer image of the Sun from Feb. causing this part of the solar atmosphere to become very hot and bright. photosphere) and are poking through. shows the corona above a sunspot. At this level in the Sun’s atmosphere. causing that area to cool and look dark compared to surroundings. When the Sun has a lot of sunspots.e.
the visible surface of the Sun.us/photo/my‐ images/265/sunpartsfull.6 million Kelvin. Image Source: NASA/SOHO (left). the Sun changes from being a very quiet star exhibiting very little activity and no sunspots to a dramatically active star covered in sunspots and experiencing multiple explosions every day. Here. Over 11 years. http://www. The average temperature in the photosphere is 5777 Kelvin (or about 6000 degrees Celsius). As expected. reaching its minimum temperature in the photosphere. the temperature rapidly increases from 20. The layer just above the photosphere is called the chromosphere and it is very. there is ongoing nuclear fusion of Hydrogen into Helium that gives the Sun all of its energy.The Sun is Hot In the center of the Sun. Above the photosphere. the temperature decreases in the outer parts of the Sun. Above the chromosphere is another very thin layer called the transition region.” The chromosphere actually increases in temperature. During a solar eclipse. the temperature is about 13.jpg/sr=1 Solar Variability The Sun experiences an 11 year activity solar cycle and a 22 year magnetic solar cycle. very thin ‐ only about 2000 km in height. Image Source: http://imageshack. the Sun has three more important layers in its atmosphere. In the core.ucar.000 K to 1 million K in only 200 km.000 Kelvin near the top. This cycle can be tracked by counting the number of sunspots on the Sun over time (see plot below).edu/news/releases/2006/images/figpredic24‐1. The corona begins at the top of the transition region and stretches millions of miles out into space. going from 6000 at the bottom to 20.jpg (right) . Here the temperature ranges between 1 million and 2 million degrees. giving it its name which literally means “colored sphere. on average. the chromosphere is seen as a very thin bright red circle around the Sun. At the heart of this cycle is the Sun's magnetic field.
Magnetic fields can guide the course of the moving plasma. and the Climate. though other studies have found that the relationship depends on which crops are chosen for comparison.msfc. It is now known that there are variations in solar energy output on timescales of 20 years and more (The Sun. At the quiet point in the solar cycle. The Sun is made up primarily of moving. the Sun begins to quiet again until it has reached solar minimum and its magnetic field has flipped. Image Source: http://solarscience. like a bar magnet. the Sun's magnetic field begins to flip. denoted the meridional flow. If a large amount of plasma moves from place to place.The magnetic field guides and controls all of the solar activity described above. That is why the magnetic cycle is 22 years ‐ because it takes 22 years for a magnetic pole on the Sun to return to its starting location. Over the following five or six years. Herschel looked for a link between sunspot number and the price of wheat. p. 248). as is often seen in close‐up images of solar activity where the plasma very clearly follows magnetic field lines. The Sun and Climate or How Sunspots Affect the Sun’s Temperature In 1801.nasa. Solar Differential Rotation It is now known that differential rotation is at the heart of the cyclic behavior exhibited by the Sun." By the end of the solar cycle. the magnetic field gets twisted up (due to differential rotation). the reverse is also true. At the start of a solar cycle. it will drag its magnetic field along with it. Over the next five or six year period. As the magnetic field twists. At solar maximum. called solar minimum. At this point. Plasma also flows poleward and vice versa. leading to an explanation of why the Sun experiences a regular solar cycle and provides a mechanism for all solar activity.shtml The Sun experiences differential rotation (equator rotates faster than the poles). However. Finally. the Sun's magnetic field looks very much like a simple dipole. which causes the magnetic field to become wound up and break into fragments. rotating plasma in magnetic fields. the Sun reaches solar maximum. the north pole will be at the "bottom" and the south pole at the "top. the north pole will be at the "top" again. sunspots. Solar Analogs. and lower wheat prices. He did find what appeared to be a link. This property leads to very complicated behavior by the solar magnetic field.gov/dynamo. CMEs. reasoning that a raise in the Sun’s temperature would result in warmer temperatures on Earth." After a second solar cycle. the Sun's north pole may be at the "top" and the south pole at the "bottom. causing it to become more and more complicated. the Sun exhibits more sunspots and more activity. the magnetic field looks almost nothing like a simple bar magnet and the Sun is experiencing many flares. Plasma at . more wheat grown. and more every day.
potentially damaging. Some of these streaming charged particles generate electric currents in the atmosphere. solar flares are analogous to tornadoes ‐ small in size but incredibly powerful and energetic. A CME is a huge bubble of plasma that strikes the Earth. The magnetic fields then generate electric currents in the rocks in the ground or in the even more conductive man‐made power lines. In fact. The total energy released during a flare is equivalent to 200 million nuclear warheads. The solar magnetic poles flip approximately every 11 years. the Sun experiences solar minimum with no sunspots. coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are explosions on the Sun. Flares release a huge amount of electromagnetic energy in the form of light over a broad range of wavelengths. however their extraordinary size and ejected mass makes them the most threatening solar space weather events the Earth can experience.the solar surface travels from the equator towards the poles while plasma deep inside the Sun flows from the poles towards the equator. CMEs are usually less energetic than flares. including X‐rays. the magnetic field is in its most stressed state and the Sun exhibits lots of sunspots. On images. quick‐ moving. Then it starts all over again. right before the magnetic poles flip. They can also accelerate solar energetic particles (SEPs). Unlike flares. highly energetic electrons. causing the Sun's magnetic field to eventually flip and reform. and even oil . then a CME is most like a hurricane. Solar Flares. If a flare may be compared to a tornado. and the Magnetic SunEarth Connection Solar flares are the most energetic explosions observed on the surface of the Sun. This flow drags the twisted and fragmented southern magnetic fields toward the north pole and north facing magnetic fields towards the south pole.e. power grids. overall. each CME ejects about the mass of 500 million Hummer H2’s into space. CMEs result in the ejection of a huge amount of matter from the Sun's atmosphere into space. protons. and its magnetic field looks most like a simple bipole. Much of this plasma (98%) is deflected by the Earth's magnetosphere. At solar maximum. flares. but 2% of the plasma enters the Earth's magnetosphere. To make a comparison with weather on Earth. flares appear as extremely bright spots in the Sun’s atmosphere that last for only a few minutes. Just after the poles flip. and ions. Like flares. These fluctuating electric currents create magnetic fields that are felt on the ground. i. very little activity. Coronal Mass Ejections. and CME activity.
leaving six million people without power for 9 hours.pipelines. leading to wide‐scale power loss. the force that the magnetic field exerts on the particle causes it to spiral around and follow the magnetic field lines.co. . Image Source: http://en. that extend for very long distances (depicted in the image below). If the electric currents are strong enough. protons.wikipedia.uk/nol/shared/spl/hi/sci_nat/10/aurora_borealis/img/aurora_ borealis_624in. When a CME hits the Earth. Most of the electrons.org/wiki/File:GIC_generation. This happened to the Quebec power grid in 1989.gif When a charged particle encounters a magnetic field. they can cause protective relays in power stations to trip or even destroy transformers. Aurora are the result of charged particles from the solar wind interacting with the Earth's magnetic field and atmosphere. Image Source: http://news. called the magnetosphere. A severe CME‐induced geomagnetic storm has the potential to take out multiple power grids.jpg In the modern era. the connection between solar storms and magnetic storms on Earth is very clear. potentially leaving the majority of a country without power.bbc. the magnetosphere is stretched and pulled. however some of them actually get trapped in the magnetic field surrounding the Earth. and ions in the solar wind are deflected by the Earth's magnetosphere. Aurora and Magnetic Storms The Northern Lights or aurora borealis are some of the most obvious and beautiful effects of space weather.
Evidence indicates that there was not gas available in the portion of the solar system where the Earth formed to generate an atmosphere at formation. When the electrons fall back to the ground state in the atom. Image Source: http://en. i. 362 – 363). The early Earth did not form with an atmosphere. This is why aurora occur at the poles ‐ because that is where the Earth's magnetic field approaches the ground! The high‐speed charged particles stream along the magnetic field lines and slam into atoms and molecules in the atmosphere. The charged particles (electrons and protons) caught in the magnetosphere get energized by this activity and go shooting along the magnetic field lines to the poles where they are brought down toward the ground.9 billion years. (Image Source: http://www. This mechanism is that same one that lights up the fluorescent and neon lights that you experience every day. This crust formation occurred in an extremely turbulent environment in which the Earth was experiencing a continued heavy bombardment of planitessimals (Solar System Evolution.html) When the Earth and Sun Were Young . p.jpg The Early Earth The Earth is currently estimated to be 4. they release the extra energy they gained from the collision in the form of photons.e. causing their electrons to jump to higher energy levels temporarily. 345).wikipedia.phenomenica. like a rubber band.compressed and released.6 ‐ 3. light. while nitrogen emits bluish and bright red light.5 billion years old. Oxygen emits green and brownish‐red light.com/2011/02/rare‐sulphur‐could‐alter‐ theories‐of. the light that makes the aurora glow comes from different types of atoms experiencing electron transitions from a range of energy levels. The impact puts energy into the atmospheric atoms. The atmosphere is thought to have been formed from gas released by the mantle during the first half billion years (4 billion years ago) after accretion (consistent with a molten mantle from the strikes of planitessimals and the formation of the Moon by a massive collision) (Solar System Evolution.org/wiki/File:Red_and_green_aurora. That is why the aurora glow in different colors. when the molten Earth cooled enough for rock formation. The atmosphere and water on Earth appear to be secondary in origin. The earliest rocks formed about 3. p.
a stronger magnetic field. The Sun has and has always had a solar wind. as was found in a recent study using very old quartz crystals from Australia. an event that is relatively rare today. The overall magnetic field of stars is seen to decrease over time.The Earth’s magnetic field existed by 3. As more and more hydrogen are converted to helium.com/8006‐early‐earth‐magnetic‐field‐ weakling. however. (Tarduno et al. With no protection from magnetic fields. the Sun will increase in brightness throughout its Main Sequence lifetime. The record of ion implantation in lunar rocks and meteorites does indicate a more intense ancient solar wind (Gaidos. This has serious implications for the effect of the Sun’s solar wind on Earth.space. This effect is due to the nuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium in the Sun’s core.com/8006‐early‐earth‐magnetic‐field‐weakling. In fact. and Charbonneau.45 billion years ago. 2010. the average density of the Sun’s core increases. (http://www. The strong solar winds combined with the Earth’s weaker magnetosphere would have lead to a constant display of auroras glowing in the Earth’s young atmosphere regularly extending down New York City level latitudes. as is believed to have happened on Mars.html. Gudel. 1995). and a more intense solar wind (http://www. causing the Sun to slow in rotation period over time (Keppens. This paints the picture of a young Sun with a fast rotation period (possibly just a few days compared to the current 27 day rotation period). The field. as well. The Impact of the Early Sun on the Early Earth The fact that the Earth had a magnetic field so early on is crucial to the development of its atmosphere. the solar winds would have blown much of the atmosphere away. The pressure inside the star must increase to hold up the star’s heavier mass and the mechanism to make this happen is an increase in overall temperature. We now know that the Earth’s magnetic field was much weaker and the early magnetosphere only extended about half as far above the Earth’s surface as it does today. If the Sun was so much cooler. shouldn’t the Earth have been as well? This will be discussed in the section entitled Faint Young Sun Paradox. and Blake). plasma escaping into the solar system. It has been observed that younger stars have stronger magnetic fields and spin more quickly than older stars. The amount of radiation the Earth likely experienced from the early solar wind on a daily basis is what the Earth only experiences during the strongest solar storms today.wired. of the star. hence brightness. http://www. The solar wind carries some of the Sun’s angular momentum away with it. was only 30% – 50% as strong as it is in the present.html) . The Early Sun Stellar evolution models clearly indicate that the early Sun was only about 70% as bright as it is today.com/wiredscience/2010/03/earths‐magnetic‐field‐is‐35‐ billion‐years‐old/). http://www.com/wiredscience/2010/03/earths‐magnetic‐field‐is‐35‐ billion‐years‐old/). i.wired. MacGregor.space..e.
The oldest evidence for life dates back to about 3. however recent studies of early atmospheric levels show no evidence of the high levels of carbon dioxide needed to solve the paradox (Kasting. however evidence for running water abounds from times as early as 3.html) The Faint Young Sun Paradox As explained above.edu/geotime/main/htmlversion/archean3. Gudel. It should also be emphasized that solar evolution models are tested on a data set of thousands of stars. Since they posed this problem. and Blake). returning a very robust result. as Sagan and Mullen did. but these studies typically fell short of a solution. 2) The Earth must be able to absorb heat more efficiently. at that brightness. the early sun was only 70% as bright as it is today. the Earth should have been frozen over. however surveying solar type stars did not support this possibility (Gaidos. In 2010. 2010). indicating that the Earth likely had a magnetic field by the time that life formed. The continents were smaller in the past.org/pubs/mercury/35_06/paradox.astrosociety. that there was more CO2 and methane in the early atmosphere. like hydrogen. you could . which would hold heat much more efficiently than today. (http://paleobiology.2 billion years ago and earlier.An additional consequence of the situation outlined above would be a higher loss rate of volatile molecules. with the slow continental growth and with a limited amount of clouds. so more of the Earth was covered with dark oceans that could absorb more heat. “We put together some models that demonstrate. scientists have been trying to come up with answers. from the Earth’s atmosphere. calling the its 30% reduction in brightness into question. 1) The Earth must be able to more efficiently hold on to heat. but with little success. geologists Minik Rosing and Allan Cox believed that they had solved the problem. Some attempted to propose a different evolutionary history for the Sun.7 billion years ago). They felt that the best solution was an increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There are three ways to solve this puzzle.5 billion years ago (and it is certain that life had formed by 2. Their model also depends on fewer clouds.si. Some proposed. causing less of the Sun’s light to be reflected and more heat to stay within the atmosphere. Other scientists proposed that the early atmosphere had less cloud cover or a different distribution of clouds. (http://www.html) Carl Sagan and George Mullen first pointed out this paradox in 1972. 3) The Sun must not have been as dim as models indicate. which may have very well been the case as clouds today form around biogenic sulphur gases and plants had not yet flourished back then. A calculation shows that.
In the past decade. 2010) (Image Source: http://www.nasa.htm) . protecting it from the interstellar medium. Voyager 1 was located at 94 AU and is expected to cross the heliopause in the next decade. Scientific American reports that Voyager 1 is now over 17 billion km at Earth and is either approaching the heliopause or may have passed through into interstellar space.com/podcast/episode. launched in 1977 and have been traveling outwards into space ever since.cfm?id=voyager‐1‐may‐ have‐reached‐the‐heli‐11‐06‐20_. The Sun. The location of the heliopause has been inferred thanks to the Voyager 1 & 2 spacecraft. Image Source: http://www. Where does this edge of the heliosphere occur? Ultimately. A Nature article claims that there are potential issues with Rosing and Cox’s theory.edu/ete/modules/msese/earthsysflr/cambrian. (http://www. at some point. Modern Society. 2011. The heliopause ends in a turbulent termination shock. It no longer measures the solar wind at its back and it is a tranquil environment. it has become the first human object ever to enter interstellar space.scientificamerican. creating a radio hiss 13 months later that was detected by the Voyagers. The place where this occurs is named the heliopause.cotf. In 2004.keep water above freezing throughout geologic history. These explosions traveled outwards to the heliopause. and Human Health The Heliosphere The same way that the Earth’s magnetosphere forms a protective bubble around the Earth from the solar wind. The speed of the disturbances was measured.html) Perhaps the Young Sun Paradox has been resolved. The Voyagers have enough electrical power and fuel to operate until 2020. pointing out that the albedo of ice was not taken into account and the cloud feedback mechanisms used in Rosing and Allen’s research fail to work in some conditions (Kasting.gov/centers/goddard/news/topstory/2007/dragon_fire_prt. If the Voyager has crossed the heliopause. the solar wind expands far enough that it does not have enough pressure to repel the interstellar medium. the Sun experienced intense explosions. the interstellar wind (due to our motion around the center of the galaxy) compresses the heliosphere on the “upwind” size. On June 20th. 2010). allowing scientists to estimate that the heliopause is located between 110 – 160 AU. or perhaps not.” (Stanford Report. the Sun’s heliosphere forms a protective bubble around the solar system. The same way that the solar wind buffets the Earth’s magnetosphere and compresses it on the “upwind” side.
called a free radical. infrared waves. cause cancer. hence they are referred to as ionizing radiation. These free radicals may then interact with a DNA molecule. The most common particles are electrons (also called beta particles). or EM radiation. protons. The shorter the wavelength. Because they move so fast.com/learning/light/ Particle Radiation Particle radiation is caused by subatomic particles moving at high speeds.andor. often close to the speed of light. If this EM radiation enters a person’s body. and neutrons. This includes radio waves.Types of Radiation The Sun emits two different distinct types of radiation – electromagnetic radiation and particle radiation. thus X‐rays and gamma rays are the most energetic forms of EM radiation. ultraviolet light. and in some cases. The term “radiation” is ambiguous and it’s important to understand what kind of radiation is being discussed and the dangers of each kind. Image Source: http://www. the more energy an electromagnetic wave carries. microwaves. The Sun emits energetic particles that are called solar energetic particles (SEPs). protons. electrons may be ejected from atoms or molecules. Electromagnetic Radiation Electromagnetic radiation. leaving a charged free ion. X‐rays. and gamma rays. These electrons. visible light. Energetic particles can be emitted by radioactive atoms here on Earth or they can come from space. refers to waves in the entire EM spectrum. they carry a lot of energy. We also use radiation to describe emissions from radioactive particles. and alpha particles are not very energetic compared to galactic cosmic rays . creating an abnormal cell that may be able to divide. X‐rays (and shorter wavelength EM radiation) have enough energy to ionize atoms. helium nuclei (also called alpha particles).
and/or gamma rays (electromagnetic radiation).html) (Image Source: http://astronet. however eyes and open wounds are at risk.esa. iodine‐129 and ‐131.gov/radiation/understand/beta. they are very good at ionizing atoms (http://darvill.gsu.html). (http://www. uranium‐238. If someone happened to inhale an alpha emitting radioactive atom. The proton stays in the nucleus and the electron is ejected. such as temperature. A gamma ray may energize an electron inside tissues. which could then . or chemical compound in which the radioactive nucleus is found. Alpha particles are heavy and move very slowly. Inhaled beta particles are even more dangerous as they can penetrate deeper into tissues and disrupt cell function. making their nuclei unstable. GCRs move at nearly the speed of light and are created in extremely energetic physical processes like supernovae.(GCRs) that come from the galaxy and the universe. When a radioactive atom decays.vae.html) The emission of gamma radiation (a gamma ray) often follows the emission of a beta particle. (Image Source: http://www.clara.jpg.phy‐astr. Some alpha emitters include plutonium‐236.edu/hbase/nuclear/halfli2. They do not penetrate very deeply into materials and can be stopped by a piece of paper or even the outer dead layers of skin. potentially causing cancer.gov/radiation/understand/alpha. a beta particle (electron). it could do damage to internal tissues. Beta particles can cause reddening or burning of the skin. Because they are heavy. it can emit an alpha particle (2 protons and 2 neutrons.ru/db/xware/msg/1215207/crshower2_nasa_big. and radon‐222 (http://www.lt/en/pages/about_radioactive_waste) Beta particles are emitted when a neutron in an unstable nucleus decays to a proton and electron.epa.html) Radioactive Atoms Radioactive atoms are atoms with a very large number of neutrons compared to protons. but are stopped by solid objects. also called a helium nucleus). radium‐ 226. Radioactive decay is also completely random. such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN in Geneva. however. They can potentially cause a lot of damage by exposing all organs. They can penetrate deeper into materials than alpha particles. pressure. Gamma rays have enough energy to penetrate into the body and even completely pass through it.htm).html). (http://epa. The decay rate of a radioactive atom is completely independent from all outside influences.net/nucrad/types. (http://hyperphysics. Some beta emitters are cobalt‐60. and cesium‐137.int/esaMI/Lessons_online/SEM8V1V7D7F_0. The most energetic cosmic rays are millions of times more energetic than the highest energy particles we can produce in our most advanced particle accelerators. Beta particles are very light and fast.
This causes the atmosphere to expand or puff up. causing it to spin out of control. Image Source: http://solarb. but the increase in X‐ray radiation is particularly important. Another possibility is that atmospheric friction may put a torque on the satellite.nasa.msfc.gov/science/space_weather/ . which causes a frictional drag. satellites are placed in orbits high above the Earth where the atmosphere is very thin or almost nonexistent. X‐rays also heat up the Earth's upper atmosphere. This drag will cause the satellites to lose energy and possibly fall out of orbit if corrective actions aren't taken.gov/radiation/understand/gamma.ionize a molecule or atom.html) Types and Effects of Radiation from the Sun Flares generate light at all wavelengths. so a change in the ionosphere causes a disruption in short‐wave radio communications. Energetic X‐rays can ionize atoms in the Earth's upper atmosphere. Satellites may also burn up in the temporarily higher density atmosphere. satellites suddenly find themselves surrounded by air. If the atmosphere expands. A gamma ray may ionize an atom or molecule inside tissue directly. Usually. (http://epa. We use the ionosphere to bounce short‐wave radio signals from one part of the Earth to the other. called the ionosphere.
SEPs are charged particles. CMEs send a huge number of energetic charged particles towards Earth. This happened to the Quebec power grid in 1989. In any mission where people would spend a long time in space far from the protection of Earth's magnetic field. These protons carry far less energy than galactic cosmic rays. a CME is a huge bubble of plasma that strikes the Earth. a blast of SEPs is really a huge dose of radiation. but they do have enough energy to be a potential health risk to people in space or at high altitudes. potentially leaving the majority of a country without power. but 2% of the plasma enters the Earth's magnetosphere. If the electric currents are strong enough. leading to wide‐scale power loss. electrons. Much of this plasma (98%) is deflected by the Earth's magnetosphere. Solar protons are also called cosmic rays. like protons. The Earth. that are ejected and accelerated by really energetic activity on the Sun. so the Sun is behind the white circle. Lastly.Flares eject a huge amount of solar energetic particles (SEPs) from the surface of the Sun. and other ions. humans traveling to Mars would be in great danger from SEP radiation. SEPs can travel at speeds close to the speed of light. These particles can cause damage to satellites in space or expose astronauts to radiation Unlike flares. . These charged particles can cause satellite detectors to malfunction or even break. but the term galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) is reserved for those extremely high energy particles that are clearly not generated inside of our solar system. they can cause protective relays in power stations to trip or even destroy transformers. power grids. which can last several hours. termed solar proton events. helium nuclei. SEPs carry a lot of energy that can have damaging effects. and even living things are natural sources of radiation that our bodies have evolved to withstand. SEPs would be a serious problem. leaving six million people without power for 9 hours. Solar Radiation and Human Health Risks First it should be pointed out that humans experience radiation every day. astronauts are protected. and even oil pipelines that extend for very long distances. cosmic rays from space. These fluctuating electric currents create magnetic fields that are felt on the ground. Inside the space station. In the future. The small white dots and streaks on the image below are "snow" caused by SEPs. even from inside our own bodies. though an astronaut on a space walk during a burst of SEPs may be in trouble. There are occasions when the Sun releases a large number of high‐energy protons. Like in flares. At these speeds. On Earth. The streaming charged particles generate electric currents in the atmosphere. The image was taken with a coronograph. The magnetic fields then generate electric currents in the rocks in the ground or in the even more conductive man‐made power lines. and most importantly. A severe CME‐induced geomagnetic storm has the potential to take out multiple power grids. we are protected by our magnetic field.
6% the speed of light! Most galactic cosmic rays have energies between 100 MeV and 10 GeV. (Image http://physik. Thus.at/hephy/Hess/Cosmic_Rays‐Cosmo_ALEPH. It is easiest for these cosmic rays to reach the Earth’s atmosphere near the poles where the magnetic field heads down into the ground.agu.ac. the magnetic field raises increasingly higher above the ground. The Earth’s atmosphere provides a very effective shield against solar proton events and only about 15% of the protons in these events have enough energy (> 450 MeV) to create a particle cascade that is detectable on the ground. People that live above 50 degrees geomagnetic latitude experience about twice as much radiation as people that live below this latitude. Near the equator. Particles need to have energies of greater than 450 MeV to be detected on the ground. Farther from the poles. the amount of radiation that penetrates to the atmosphere depends on magnetic latitude. The Earth’s magnetosphere is the primary barrier to cosmic rays from the Sun. a proton with an energy of 100 MeV is traveling 43% the speed of light.So how high energy is high energy? Particles from the Sun tend to be what is considered on the lower energy end in the 10 – 100 MeV (million electron volts) range. A proton with an energy of 10 GeV is traveling 99.gif) Image Source: http://blogs. Particles of all energies can enter the atmosphere near the poles. To put these energies into perspective. 1 GeV = 1000 MeV) can get through the Earth’s magnetic field to the upper atmosphere.org/wildwildscience/2009/09/01/how‐much‐ radiation‐does‐it‐take‐to‐kill‐you/ Source: .uibk. only particles with energies of about 15 GeV (that’s giga electron volts. requiring protons of higher and higher energies to penetrate to the atmosphere.
However. this does pose a radiation concern and circumpolar flights are generally rerouted during solar storms.000 feet.075 mSv in just three hours. On August 7. in between Apollo 16. located about a million miles from the Earth towards the Sun. Increasing in altitude also increases the risk of radiation. radiation exposure and solar proton events are a serious concern.nasa. and passengers traveling circumpolar routes. Colorado experience about twice as much cosmic radiation as people living at sea level. and Apollo 17. people living in Denver. The radiation exposure of those in flight during solar proton events can be worrisome. NASA has been lucky. Inside the most heavily shielded parts of the space station. though still not at dangerous levels. so getting caught in a solar storm could end an astronaut’s career prematurely. which was carried out in . alerting scientists to potentially dangerous solar activity a few hours to a few days before it would reach the Earth. (Image Source: http://www. which was carried out during April of 1972. the accumulated dosage would have been about . Additionally.000 feet). particularly for pilots. NASA and other space agencies around the world have many satellites in orbit around the Earth and at the Lagrangian point. However. NASA enforces career radiation dose limits. While not dangerous in and of itself. he or she could suffer a large.gov/astronauts/) Luckily. it is difficult to accumulate the annual IRCP recommended limit of 20 mSv for everyone else. flight attendants. 1972. potentially lethal dose of radiation. This added exposure to cosmic rays does not appear to have a significant health impact as medical studies show that people living at mountain altitudes are generally healthier and have longer life spans than those living at sea level. Accumulated radiation from a flight schedule of 70 hours per month at high latitude routes could reach the International Council on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommended limit for a pregnant female in just five months (2 mSv). For example. increased exposure to cosmic rays is a concern for people traveling at aircraft altitudes (especially above 40. These satellites provide an early warning system for solar storms. L1. 1989 event was recorded by instruments on the ground and mounted in airplanes. At an altitude of 50. Solar radiation is one of the largest problems scientists must face when considering manned space flight.05 mSv. It was found that a 7 hour flight over the North Atlantic would have resulted in a dosage of about . The September 29. but if the radiation from a storm happened to strike an astronaut during a space walk. astronauts are reasonably well protected from solar storms. For astronauts in space. So far.
P.epa. it released one of the most powerful flares ever observed and stream of radiation that lasted 10 hours (the norm is about 30 minutes). Image Source: http://www. The FAA provides a similar website to estimate the radiation dose from flying. there was a large solar storm that would have sickened or killed astronauts on the Moon.gov/cariprofile. which can be found at: http://jag.html. reserved for the most intense of solar storms. The Effects of a Solar Storm in Modern Times (Summarized from the book Storms from the Sun. 11 of them classified with the label X‐class.asp.” (p.jpg) People who are interested in learning their estimated radiation dose from the environment can do so using a webpage on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) webpage at the following address: http://www.redorbit.org/wiki/File:Mars_mission.jpg . Some of the less optimistic studies indicate that a six‐ month trip to Mars with a six‐month return trip could possibly increase the lifetime chance of getting cancer to 45%.wikipedia.com/modules/imglib/download.cami. Some scientists estimate that every third human cell would be damaged by energetic particles during the flight. pp.php?Url=/modules/imagegal lery/gallery_images/6_e8d8201fae6310c288a1d298b3e1a402.gov/rpdweb00/understand/calculate.185‐186) (Image Source: http://en. Earth and Sky. As the sunspot group rotated into view on March 6th. 94) The readings on the NOAA GOES‐7 satellite’s X‐ray detector went off the scale for 27 minutes. (Sun. an enormous sunspot group 54 times the size of the Earth exploded with over 195 flares.December of 1972. “Solar physicists estimated that the temperature inside the flar reached 20 million degrees Celsius and more energy was released in those moments than humans have consumed in the entire history of civilization.jccbi. 93 ‐ ) From March 6 to 19.
a halo CME was observed. unprotected by the magnetosphere. the Earth’s magnetosphere was compressed from a normal 34. Satellites were being bombarded with streams of energetic charged particles. NOAA’s GOES‐7 weather satellite suffered outages and communication problems. Magnetic observatories had readings at the top of their charts for 5 or 6 hours. Navigators saw their compasses distort to as far as 10 degrees. NASA’s Solar Maximum Mission satellite (pictured) dropped 3 miles in orbit over a course of a couple of days (ultimately re‐entering the Earth’s atmosphere and burning up in December of 1989).com/slideshow. an extremely rare event. The aurora continued south and was seen in Florida.cf m?id=geomagnetic‐storm‐march‐13‐1989‐ extreme‐space‐weather&photo_id=FCC3D702‐ EC6F‐977D‐26727B186E45F446) On the ground and in space.000 miles. power. The Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center which tracks about 8000 pieces of space junk lost track of 1300 objects. Following this flare. On the 10th. a computer microchip manufacturer shut down because the magnetic storm was disturbing the sensitive equipment. Southern California. A classified US military satellite tumbled uncontrollably through space. the front edge of the CME reached the Earth and by midday on the 13th. another enormous flare exploded with such brightness that it exceeded the maximum values on the scales used to record flare brightness. Satellites that should not be were suddenly feeling the frictional drag force of the atmosphere. and Texas.scientificamerican. North Sea oil companies had to stop drilling because the magnetic instruments that guide the drills were way off course. In the northeast US. observers saw a white light flare like the one Carrington had seen in 1859. On the night of March 12th. the Earth’s upper atmosphere was expanded due to heating from the bombardment of the particles.The active region continued to send energized streams of protons towards the Earth. even those on the American South. The added electric currents due to charged . satellite. and Honduras. Cancun. Auroras were seen in Mississippi. On March 9th. meaning that it was heading straight for the Earth. At the same time. and electronics companies were struggling.000 miles above the Earth to possibly as low at 14. This meant that satellites that were normally protected by the Earth’s magnetic field were suddenly laid bare in open space. Arizona. (Image Source: http://www.
com/news/images/31311a.msfc.jpg . All of this happened within seconds. New York. Montreal. In New Jersey. Arizona. and the surrounding areas were left without power over the freezing Canadian March night. Image Source: http://www. (Below. Image Source: http://spacefellowship. but the power company was able to find one and get back up and running in six weeks. The excited ionosphere lead to troubles communicating with GPS satellites. It took nine hours to restore power by channeling it from other utilities. Once one plant experienced a loss of power. Usually these type of transformers take a year to build.html) This storm was also the one that caused the collapse of the Hydro‐Quebec power plant and its neighboring plants. (Image Source: http://solarscience.com/news/art23374/solar‐shield‐ protecting‐the‐north‐american‐power‐grid. Some geostationary satellites had trouble staying in place.gov/images/SMM. which returned poor or incorrect locations. California.jpg) The geomagnetically induced currents (GICs) from the streaming charged particles in the atmosphere lead to disturbed power companies in Maryland.theweatherspace. New Mexico. scientists reported that the entire northeastern US. almost fell into blackout. which depended partly on Hydro‐Quebec power. as well. a $10 million transformer was damaged beyond repair. the added demand on the other plants caused them to collapse as well. After a study of the system collapse.particles from the CME caused phantom switching and tripping of circuits. and Pennsylvania.nasa. Six million people in Quebec City.
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