Posts tagged magnetosphere

Staring at the below picture reminds me of the cauldrons and alchemy of past civilizations. It’s interesting that several other planets in the solar system share the same phenomenon as our own northern lights. That’s something that I would like to see with my own eyes someday.

A stunning light display over Saturn has stumped scientists who say it behaves unlike any other planetary aurora known in our solar system.

The blueish-green glow was found over the ringed planet’s north polar region just like Earth’s northern lights.

It was discovered by the infrared instruments on NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.

‘We’ve never seen an aurora like this elsewhere,’ said Tom Stallard, a scientist working with Cassini data at the University of Leicester.

‘This aurora covers an enormous area across the pole. Our current ideas on what forms Saturn’s aurora predict that this region should be empty, so finding such a bright aurora here is a fantastic surprise.’

Auroras are caused by charged particles streaming along the magnetic field lines of a planet into its atmosphere.

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One thing that is brought to the forefront by this event is the significance of the sun’s effect on our solar system, and the abnormal stall of an 11 year cycle.  It is also noted that there is a constant fluctuation between warming and cooling cycles of the sun, which in turn contribute to the rise and fall of  temperatures (mini ice ages) on this planet in the past.

The record-setting surface of the sun. A full month has gone by without a single spot  (Source: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO))

The record-setting surface of the sun. A full month has gone by without a single spot (Source: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO))

The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted.

The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots — is an influencing factor for climate on earth.

According to data from Mount Wilson Observatory, UCLA, more than an entire month has passed without a spot. The last time such an event occurred was June of 1913. Sunspot data has been collected since 1749.

When the sun is active, it’s not uncommon to see sunspot numbers of 100 or more in a single month. Every 11 years, activity slows, and numbers briefly drop to near-zero. Normally sunspots return very quickly, as a new cycle begins.

But this year — which corresponds to the start of Solar Cycle 24 — has been extraordinarily long and quiet, with the first seven months averaging a sunspot number of only 3. August followed with none at all. The astonishing rapid drop of the past year has defied predictions, and caught nearly all astronomers by surprise.

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