News to me:
Like giant, cosmic chutes between the Earth and sun, magnetic portals open up every eight minutes or so to connect our planet with its host star.
Once the portals open, loads of high-energy particles can travel the 93 million miles (150 million km) through the conduit during its brief opening, space scientists say.
Called a flux transfer event, or FTE, such cosmic connections not only exist but are possibly twice as common as anyone ever imagined, according to space scientists who attended the 2008 Plasma Workshop in Huntsville, Ala., last week.
“Ten years ago I was pretty sure they didn’t exist, but now the evidence is incontrovertible,” said David Sibeck, an astrophysicist at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.
There must be a use for these things, in fiction or real life…
They’re scarce this year.
When the sun is more active, several sunspots can appear on a daily basis. However, very few have been spotted in 2008. It wasn’t until August 21 and 22 that the Solar Influences Data Analysis reported the glimpse of one dark spot….Experts say the question is not when will the sunspots reappear, but rather how fast will their numbers increase once they start to appear.
[Image and story: RedOrbit News]
Earlier today TJ wrote a post about the possibility of solar power as an alternative fuel. Now I have to admit to having a vested interest in this field as recently I began work as a Solar Analyst for a renewable energy developer. I’ve spent the last six weeks conducting studies into every aspect of the solar market and its feasibility. Although some more outlandish technologies have been overstated, the future of solar is incredibly bright.
There are four main types of solar power on the horizon. Most people know about silicon photovoltaics, which are now reaching record efficiencies of 23%.
The typical ending of our lovely planet will come in several billion years when the Sun swells up and engulfs all of the inner planets. But it’s never too early to start thinking of how to rescue our beloved cradle.
According to an article in the NYTimes, the Earth faces an unknown future because it will move further out in orbit as the Sun expends its mass and the gravitational forces become weaker.
One solution is to lasso comets and asteroids, swinging them near the Earth and using their slight gravity to boost the Earth to a higher orbit, where it could escape the Sun’s expansion. Because, y’know, what could go wrong with that?
(image from NASA website)
Space is a dangerous place. All that vacuum that looks like nothing actually contains huge amounts of solar radiation. In an orbit around Earth or a short trip to the Moon, this is not usually a life-threatening problem – although the Apollo 16 astronauts just missed a solar storm that could have killed them. But in the eight months or so it would take an expedition to get to Mars, a few solar wind storms could easily kill any humans on board. The shield is a common solution in science fiction – from the near-magic forcefield of Star Trek/Wars to the realistic mirrored disk seen on the craft in last year’s Sunshine.
Scientists at Oxford University are aiming to create a similar shield. By creating a magnetic field similar to that of the Earth’s, which protects us from radiation, the scientists found they could successfully deflect intense beams of charged particles. The technology has been proven to work and now needs to be energy-efficient enough to be run by a spacecraft with limited resources – such a development could well provide technology useful in increasing the efficiency of more mundane technologies as well.
[via the Guardian, screenshot from ‘Sunshine’ via Moving Pictures ]