Saturday, September 25, 2010

Solar Surprise

I got up on my High Horse yesterday...I was saying there's more that climatologists don't know about the Sun and it's place in climate and weather, than what they do know and can model accurately.

Forgive me if I came off as bad.

Here's today's fun factoid: Who knew that Solar Storms, Coronal Mass Ejections, and Solar Flares could change direction in mid-flight? Previous to the latest observations and data crunching, it was thought that these streams of energy traveled in straight lines...(I'm tempted to believe the more accurate word is assumed, not thought.)

In a vacuum, even physicists' default position on this would be in line with Sir Isaac Newton's Laws.

It turns out that Space, near Stars anyway, isn't exactly a vacuum. The space around stars is chock full of particles that make up Solar Wind. There's so many particles that they're even being investigated by Japanese scientists as a possible power source for spacecraft utilizing so-called "Solar Sails", to sail long inter-planetary distances Tall Ship-Style!  SciFi Movie fans will recall such a craft from the 1982 Walt Disney SciFi Actioner "TRON"

TRON's Solar Sailor 1982
I get a little hair standing up on the back of my neck when I think of all the ho-hum, everyday stuff that I once read about in awe as a young SciFi reader! Personal computers, telepresence, cell phones, iPods even the Internet first existed on the pages of SciFi novels and short stories long before they were displayed for sale at the local emporia.

It turns out that JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, has already launched a Solar Sailor! Named IKAROS, it launched in May 2010, finished unfurling it's sail on June 10, 2010, and JAXA confirmed that IKAROS is being accelerated by it's solar sail on July 9, 2010!

July 14, 2010 DCAM2 photo of IKAROS sail deployed
Don't mistake me now, IKAROS is not an everyday gizmo that gives me a geekthrill down my that it's SciFi Reality Come True, it's another amazing baby step on Humanity's Voyage to the Stars. (Yeah, I ate that SciFi stuff up in my formative years!)

Wikipedia's IKAROS page has all the geeky's another amazing Japanese gizmo for sure! The spacecraft even carried two tiny ejectable cameras, DCAM1 and DCAM2 Just wow!

It's just more proof of how much we still can learn about or world (and Universe)

As a kid following the first baby steps of NASA into Space, and who followed "The Space Race" as avidly as I did my '62 San Francisco Giants, I still get that thrill of discovery every time I read about the latest gee-whiz discovery or theory that becomes proven.

The Space Age is not over, rather it's been overshadowed by The Information Age. No one can say where all this is leading, though I prefer to believe that it will lead to Mankind standing on the surface of Mars in my lifetime. I'm more than a little disappointed that NASA didn't keep going after the Apollo Moon Landings of the late 60's and early 70's.

I guess it's not a mystery...the Federal Government surely has had it's plate full these past few decades. Still, all these new technologies can't help but make our understanding of our climate and the Sun's relationship with it more complete, more transparent, and ultimately more comforting.

Exploration is in our DNA. We'll work our way to Mars someday. Hopes and Dreams aside, it will be fascinating!

I say: "Let's get on with it"! Who's with me?

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