There is no way around it- we live in the sun’s extended atmosphere. The dynamic activity of the sun and its changing behavior impacts us all. Why this might concern the citizens of Earth is that solar storms, however beautiful, can be a threat to our planet- specifically our electrical grid and technologies such as GPS systems and mobile phones. Luckily, we have physicists and astronomers to help us understand how solar variability and space weather (e.g. solar flares, prominences, and coronal mass ejections) can affect Earth.
Holly Gilbert, chief of the Solar Physics Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center will be visiting the Library on Tuesday August 19th to talk about “The Moody Sun.” She will be showing data from Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) to demonstrate how much is going on with magnetic fields located everywhere on the sun and introduce “energy release” in the context of these dynamic magnetic fields/forces. The origins of space weather and the solar activity cycle (the periodical cycle in which the sun becomes very active ~11 years on average, hence the ‘moodiness’ of the sun) will also be discussed. Lastly, she will talk about the impact of the sun’s dynamic, yet beautiful, phenomena on our near- Earth space environment and our power grids, as well as on our astronauts. She will also introduce two future missions in development which will fly very close to the sun.
If you cannot make it to the lecture, it will be captured and later broadcast on the Library’s science/technology webcast page and the YouTube channel “Topics in Science” playlist in the coming months. In the meantime, you might be interested in SDO project scientist W. Dean Pesnell’s 2011 “Many Colors of the Sun” lecture which you can view on the Library’s webcast page or YouTube channel. The year 2011 was the peak for Solar Cycle 24 and a ‘hot’ year for solar flares- check our blog post about Sun Spots this Summer. Also, in 2009 professor of astronomy and astrophysics Edward Guinan presented on “Our Sun- Its Influence on Climate and Life.” You can view this lecture on the Library’s webcast page.
“The Moody Sun” is ST&B’s last program for the 2014 spring/ summer series. Our 2014 fall series will be featuring talks with scientists in the earth, life, and space sciences. Topics will include: climate change on Mars, wildfires and climate, underground water supplies, using social media for disease surveillance, and linking big data in biodiversity.
We hope you will join us for the upcoming program about “The Moody Sun” on Tuesday, August 19th from 11:30-12:30 in the Pickford Theater, Madison Building, 3rd floor, Library of Congress. [Update 12/03/2014 – You can view this lecture on the Library’s webcast page and YouTube channel, Topics in Science playlist. ]