Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather Part I — An Introduction By Stephanie Osborn

Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather Part I — An Introduction

By Stephanie Osborn

“Interstellar Woman of Mystery”

Rocket Scientist and Novelist


A lot of my friends and fans over on Facebook have become followers of my various solar and aurora alerts there, and Sarah keeps asking me to come blog more about the stuff — which I enjoy doing, immensely — so I thought I’d explain what it is and why it’s important.



[This is a basic image of the Sun, complete with sunspots. The small black circle in the top right edge of the solar disk is actually Venus beginning a “transit” (passage) between us and the Sun.]

All three — solar weather, space weather, and geomagnetic weather — are interconnected. This is because the Sun has a magnetic field that extends far past the Earth, and so the Earth’s magnetic field interacts with it. “Space Weather” is essentially a term for the conditions of space in the general vicinity of Earth, but not necessarily inside the Earth’s magnetic field.

We are also sitting inside the atmosphere of the Sun, the corona. The corona is a plasma — a gas composed of charged particles, mostly protons and electrons, with some neutrons and assorted atomic nuclei (such as alpha particles — helium nuclei) thrown in for good measure. Its temperature is around a 1,400,000°-1,600,000°Kelvin, or about 2,500,000-2,900,000°F. It has a density that ranges about 5-10 particles per cubic centimeter, and it is generally moving away from the Sun, “evaporating” under the influence of the powerful solar magnetic fields.


This generates a kind of wind, usually coming out from the Sun and spiraling away — yeah, the “solar wind.” Granted, the corona isn’t very dense, but it’s dense enough to create some effects, and we’re working on using it to our benefit, like in solar sails and such, which can use the solar wind as much as light pressure to maneuver around the Solar System like a spaceborne version of the clipper ships of old. (But that’s a different blog post.) Solar wind speeds range from 400-750km/s (895,000-1,700,000mph), and under certain conditions, can get much, much faster.


But when the Sun gets…agitated, we’ll say…it can get a lot denser. Coronal holes move from the poles down to lower latitudes, and the Sun’s face develops an astronomical case of acne. This usually occurs around the time of solar maximum.


Whoa. Waitaminit. What’s a coronal hole?


A coronal hole is a magnetic field artifact.


Earth has a dipole field, like a bar magnet, because it is a rigid spinning body, so the dynamo inside it is all rotating at the same angular velocity. Remember elementary school when you put a piece of paper on a bar magnet and sprinkled iron filings on it? It made a cool bunch of lines that arced from one end of the magnet to the other, and then fanned out at the very ends. That’s what I’m talking about here.


The Sun is a gigantic ball of plasma. It spins on an axis. These two facts, when combined, create an electric current. An electric current, in turn, generates a magnetic field. This is why the Sun has a magnetic field. A magnetic field which TENDS toward a dipole.


Only…the Sun is a big ball of plasma, not a rigid body. More, each particle of that plasma is obeying Kepler’s Laws of orbital motion. Consequently, the Sun experiences something called differential rotation. This means that the area near the core doesn’t rotate at the same rate as the area near the photosphere (visible “surface), and the poles don’t rotate at the same rate as the equator. Consequently, the solar magnetic field is MUCH more complex than a simple dipole. It can, and does, occasionally have more than one north or one south magnetic pole. This means that it can look like this:


magnetic field lines

Now, see all those places where the magnetic field lines are going off into space, instead of looping back around to the “surface”? Those are shooting all that plasma off into space, ALONG THOSE LINES, and the result, when you look at it with the right frequency light and equipment, is what’s called a coronal hole. Looking at ‘em the right way, it looks like this:




The polar areas normally have “coronal holes,” because of the open-ended lines of the dipole.


Occasionally one of these will get really large, and then the lay news media get all bent out of shape about “the huge hole in the sun” that’s going to destroy it. Nuh-uh. Ain’t gonna happen. Just shows they slept through all their science classes, assuming they had any. A coronal hole isn’t really a hole at all; it’s just a region of lower plasma quantities in the chromosphere (the lowest part of the solar atmosphere), caused because the mag fields are shoving it all off into space.


The streams of plasma coming out from a coronal hole are known as “enhanced solar wind streams.” (I never said all scientists were creative.)


So. That’s a quick synopsis of what coronal holes are.


Wait. What’s “solar maximum”?


Our Sun has cycles that it goes through. Some are short and some are long. These cycles are related to its magnetic field and to sunspots. In fact, many variable star astronomers such as myself consider that the Sun is at least a borderline variable star because of this; some consider it outright variable. We’ll leave that to a later discussion. For now, let’s just look at those cycles and why they exist.


Again, since the Sun isn’t solid like a bar magnet, the plasma doesn’t all have to spin around the axis at the same speed — and it doesn’t.


So let’s think about those lines of iron filings again. Our bar magnet has gone and gotten itself all twisted up because it isn’t solid, so the lines of iron filings get all twisted up, too. Now, scientists are still working on this, but the best we can figure out now is that sunspots are places where “snarls” form in the magnetic lines, and float up and break through to the “surface,” or photosphere. (In the last couple of years we’ve learned how to look “deeper” into the Sun to see these snarls below the photosphere. Remember that. It’ll come into play later on, when we start talking about the Sun as a variable star.) This means that sunspots have magnetic fields, sometimes very complicated. There are almost always at least two — one is a north magnetic pole, the other a south pole. (When there is just one, it is usually funny-shaped and one end will be a North magnetic pole and the opposite end will be South. And sometimes there’s a whole cluster, which gets really complicated.) And most all of the spots on the Sun will have the same N/S orientation.


It turns out that every 11 years, there is a peak in the number of sunspots, and a minimum in the number of sunspots. We aren’t quite sure why, because we don’t have all the theory worked out yet. But we’ve all heard of Solar Maximum and Solar Minimum, and that’s what those terms mean. Solar Max is when we have the most spots, and Solar Min is when we have the least.


~Stephanie Osborn





148 thoughts on “Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather Part I — An Introduction By Stephanie Osborn

  1. I can’t wait to read more, I remember writing on this topic in 2009 and had a few theories pop up! Maybe I’ll get to find out if they’re true!

  2. Great post, Stephanie. I’m looking forward to the next one. I did my Ph.D. work in the 90s on ionospheric physics. I’ve not been active in research in years; my career path has taken a different direction. It was good to be reminded of my roots.

      1. He teaches STEM at a school that I think is more your travel range than mine.

      2. It’s a mix of administration and teaching. My official title is Undergraduate Teaching Lab Director for the Physics Department at a university in Texas. In English that means I supervise graduate TAs, hear student complaints, and enforce the no food/drink/phones/ lab policies. I also teach a small section of inquiry-based intro physics primarily for preprofessional track students (premed, pre-PT, etc.) every semester. That program is being expanded to larger multiple sections because of the impact it seems to have on MCAT scores.

        I’d love to get back to doing a little research. There’s one project I’ve got hanging that no one else seems to be working on. Research isn’t part of my current job description, so it may be a while before I can work it in.

        1. How are things on the 40 Acres these days? I graduated with a BSME in 1979 from there. I was looking at the ME department and there are only 4 professors from my time still there, all emeritus guys now. They were young guys back then.

          1. For the university as a whole, not bad. We’re growing. Engineering is renovating the building on the NW side of the circle next to the math building. I’m not sure who was in it previously. I’ll be glad when they’re done. The construction workers park in my lot.

            Engineering has been growing. Physics is out of space. A new building was approved recently at the regents meeting, so hopefully we’ll be expanding into it. The administration has promised we will, but they can be as bad as politicians when it comes to promises.

  3. Just shows they slept through all their science classes, assuming they had any.

    Decades of observation have persuaded me to doubt journalists ever had classes.

    1. I’m convinced it’s a different mindset that filters out what they think is and isn’t important. It has interesting results. That said, while there were stores on the coronal hole, what I saw was more of a “neato” thing instead of “We’re all gonna die!”

      1. I saw a good bit of the “We’re all gonna die!” stuff, because of course everyone that it frightened tagged me with it on Faceplant, or popped me a private message, or the like. Trust me — it was out there.

    2. Remember that “Journalist” comes from a Sanskrit phrase meaning “gasbag who knows nothing about everything.”

    3. Ah yes, our bastions of the Fourth Estate. You’d think that at least those specializing in science and writing for the local Huntsville AL paper, home of the Marshall Space Flight Center, would have at least learned to ask intelligent questions. But again and again I’ve been proved to be hopelessly optimistic. One of my pet peeves, I”d roll off a nine hour shift on console supporting on orbit experiment operations on Spacelab and later the ISS. I’d get home still charged up and need to unwind a bit, so pick up the latest newspaper. There in headlines: Space Experiment Dies!!!
      Which it did, I watched it die. But you had to read at least a couple column inches into the story behind the headline to learn that it dies because after completing over 120 percent of predicted science operations, and having processed all on board samples, we killed power to that particular piece of hardware since its role on the current mission was over.
      Reporters, like most politicians, say whatever they think makes them look good and feel important. The veracity of what they report is always subject to at the very least some form of independent verification.

      1. You’d think that at least those specializing in science and writing … would have at least learned to ask intelligent questions.

        Nyah, I would never think that. I feel about journalists asking intelligent questions as Samuel Johnson said about lady preachers: “Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”

        I would be gratified if they recognized and acknowledged their ignorance and left it to the scientists to provide the intelligence. “Ms Osborne, could you please provide a simple explanation for our readers audience, many of whom are less well-informed on such matters than even a journalist?”

        1. Oops — my sincere apologies for the silent e appended Ms Osborn’s name in previous post.

          Given the vast number of keystrokes dropped from my comment typings I suppose some of them would have to turn up somewhere sometime, but that ought not have turned up then and there.

          1. No problem. Happens all the time. Unfortunately sometimes it happens at places like the License Registration Office, which can then cause problems of a more legal sort.

            1. You’re quite gracious, but it is a matter of some personal sensitivity for me as I suffer a similar problem with my name* in that people seem to insist in “p”-ing in the middle of it.

              *Starts with “S” and often prompts inquiries about the whereabouts of Delilah.

                  1. The purple and pink hair I think — mind you I am not certain — are more indicative of that rock star’s daughter.

                  2. Well, actually, now you mention it…I had some purple streaks put in, just for the fun of it, in time for LibertyCon this year.

                    But the “Sharon Osbourne” comments vastly predate the purple streaks, which are pretty subtle (the stylists call ’em “peekaboo”) anyway.

    1. LOL, glad you liked that. I like anthropomorphizing it. Especially when I’m trying to explain something; for those not trained in science, it seems to give them a reference point, a way to relate to it.

      1. The Spouse has recently become quiet vocal about issues with anthropomorphizing. Therefore I am not sure about the impending reaction to my admission that I had fleeting image of a gigantic space ship in the form of a Clearicil (TM) tube approaching the sun …

  4. How much solar mass is lost to solar wind, and how much eventually returns when particles lose energy?

    Could variations in mass loss have any effect on models of stellar age?

    1. SWAG ahead. Feel free to slap down.

      Let’s see . . . the escape velocity of the sun at the average radius should be about 6.175 x 10^5 m/s. So, not taking into account the sun’s magnetic field, anything above that speed should be able to escape from the sun’s gravitational pull. But that raises the question of what’s the boundary between the sun’s particles and interstellar space: Its it a bubble defined by the sun’s magnetic field, the point where the sun’s particles are no longer detectable, or where the sun’s particles meets some sort of interstellar “pressure,” loosely using the term?

      Something else, though. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, so all this heat and light and radiation we enjoy each day as the sun converts hydrogen to helium comes at the expense of its matter. The sun has to be losing mass due to fusion.

    2. Had to go look this one up; hadn’t had occasion to reference the numbers in a long time. Wikipedia says it well (and correctly), so let me quote:
      “The total number of particles carried away from the Sun by the solar wind is about 1.3×1036 per second. Thus, the total mass loss each year is about (2–3)×10^−14 solar masses, or about one billion kilograms per second. This is equivalent to losing a mass equal to the Earth every 150 million years. However, only about 0.01% of the Sun’s total mass has been lost through the solar wind. Other stars have much stronger stellar winds that result in significantly higher mass loss rates.”

      Should I need to translate something, let me know, but that’s about 0.000000000002% per year.

      1. Also we know that Voyager 1 has crossed the heliopause into interstellar space. (The heliopause is the boundary of the heliosphere, which (among other things) is the range of effects of the solar wind. This was detectable on instrumentation. Turns out that, given the interstellar medium pressing back, there’s a reasonably sharp-edged heliopause, because it creates a kind of bow shock effect, only (we think) all the way around, instead of just on the “leading” side.

  5. The sun being, let’s call it mildly variable, certainly makes explaining some geo-climate episodes easier, like the Cambrian “snowball Earth” and the cooling of the Pleistocene. Neat article!

    1. Now for a stupid question: How does the sun’s solar cycle compares to other stars? Shouldn’t we be able to detect or see outright sun spots on other stars? If so, we should be able to detect cycles there. Would suns of the same size and same age have the same cycle?

      1. We do detect outright starspots on other stars; that was the very nature of my graduate work. I studied RS CVn (binary) and BY Dra (single) variables at Vandy. In one case I recall a starspot complex so large that it covered nearly a quarter of the stellar photosphere. We get a very defined light curve on these as the spots rotate in and out of our line of sight.

        Interestingly, many of these seem to be permanent, or at least EXTREMELY long-lived, spots. That doesn’t mean they can’t go away, however. My thesis studied several stars, one of which was known to have spots for as long as such observations had been capable of being made…and while I was observing and analyzing it, this incredibly long-lived spot just…went away. I felt guilty somehow. It would be akin to studying Jupiter only to watch the Great Red Spot dissipate.

        So no, there doesn’t seem to be any “it’s this size or spectral type, therefore it’s going to have this variability period” sort of relationship. We’re still trying to figure it all out.

  6. We are also sitting inside the atmosphere of the Sun, the corona.

    I confess to not perceiving our planet as within the solar corona (probably because no longer being a beer drinker I have no Corona within me) and find the realization utterly charming! I suppose I ought to apologise for my spherocentrism in creating invalid planetary boundaries, but perhaps I am overly influenced by having just read too much about Autostraddle’s Editorial Apology.

    1. See, I just looked at the temperatures and said, wait, that doesn’t look right. Would that be the temps at the “surface” of the sun (photosphere-corona interface)?

      1. If by “wait, that doesn’t look right,” you mean the fact that the corona is so much hotter than the photosphere, I get you, but it IS in fact correct. It has been a matter of some curiosity ever since it was discovered. There have been some recent discoveries that are slowly starting to shed light on the matter, and it appears that it is something to do with these more transient moving magnetic fields. Somehow they are “pumping” energy into the corona. And since temperature is really just a measure of the kinetic energy of the particles (molecules/atoms) in the substance, then increased energy results in increased temps.

        1. I think, not being CCO, that if the earth is inside the corona, and those are the corona temperatures, that’s way too hot, isn’t it? Wouldn’t 2,500,000 F kill our astronauts faster than Yellowstone kills idiot tourists who step off the trails? So what am I missing?

          1. The problem with ‘temperature’ is it is just the average energy of the individual particles in the area. While the energy is high, the density is very low. (Kind of like being a vacuum.) Five particles per cm3 are nothing compared to the astronaut’s body which has approx 10^15 atoms/cm2 that the ‘wind’ strikes into.

            1. Not much thermal energy to transfer then? Compare trying to boil a swimming pool with a match?

              1. Depends on your definition. Plenty of energy in the individual plasma ions. Just not very many ions. Think of it more along the lines of trying to move a dead elephant by firing a tennis ball launcher at it.

                1. OK, I think I get it now. The solar wind (which is the same as the corona, right?) has a huge temperature, but the density of the particles is so diffuse the primary heat transfer is still radiant, not convective. So it’s like you’re feeling the heat from the fire, not the sparks that fly off.

                  (Trying “to move a dead elephant with tennis ball launcher”; that’s a good one.)

                  1. Bingo. You got it.

                    And yeah, I was wanting to evoke a certain mental image. Still and all, it’s an apt description. You are trying to transfer all of the KE of the individual tennis balls — which are flying along at quite a clip — to the elephant carcass, with the intent to move it. Now, the parts of the carcass that the balls hit probably vibrate and wobble a little bit, but overall, the dead elephant ain’t goin’ nowhere.

    2. If one were to combine some Smithwick’sale with some Corona, would one get a Typewriter? That is, a Smith-Corona. I suppose it would be a Label nowadays.

        1. It’s like an old commercial, where two young men were congratulating themselves on not drinking the water in Mexico. Then they looked in their drinks and noticed the ice.

    1. Glad you liked it! Thanks for reading it!

      For those of you who know me only as a scientist, I also use that science to write hard SF and SF/mystery. Hit my website and check ’em out!

    1. Thanks, Chris, but I honestly don’t think a thing about it. Here in Huntsville AL, you can’t walk ten feet without tripping over somebody like me, so I mostly don’t think of myself as especially different or unusual. I didn’t realize I was a polymath until LibertyCon contacted me and asked me to give a talk about what it was like to BE a polymath. I kinda blinked, went, “What?!” and refreshed my memory on the definition of the word. Then I emailed Uncle Timmy and said, “Are y’all SURE?”” and he said, “Sure we’re sure!” And I finally sat down and truly LOOKED at my qualifications, and decided yeah, I really am one.

      1. Well, there’s not too many rocket scientists here in the Great Frozen Northland (or maybe they’re just too humble to show themselves).

    2. I would also add that Stephanie is a *real* real rocket scientist. I am technically a rocket scientist, but the rockets I study are the ones that fire off a plane wing and explode when they reach the enemy target. There is really a lot more ‘logistics’ than ‘science’ in my kind of rockets. Not nearly as glamorous, but it pays the bills.

      1. My job wasn’t especially glamorous either, Donald. People see the space program as being really glamorous and stuff, but it’s really just a lot of hard work, long hours, odd shifts, and — in some cases — praying things don’t screw up. All this is punctuated by brief moments of sublime beauty, unutterable wonder, and abject terror.

        And then there are the times when something goes WRONG.

        1. Most jobs, from the inside, are not especially glamorous … especially (when you read a little about what models and photographers go through to create glamour) the glamour business.

          Glamour is an artifact of the imagination, however, and few things stir a Scifi fan’s imagination like rockets and solar physics.

          Well, okay, blaster probably top the list, but I bet the manufacture and maintenance of those is very unglamorous.

          1. I’d say “lightsaber” (the coolest weapon ever, search your feelings you know it to be true) but I’ve been leveling a Sith Sorcerer so maybe that’s affecting my judgement.

            1. Pfui – a lightsaber is just Niven’s variable knife with a range limiter and chromatic shift.

              1. *glances at the “Shock Him” dialogue option, which is tempting even if I’m trying to play a light-sided character* 😉

                  1. No, the tool catalog in that case would be the Congressional directory/phone book. The record is more of a list of evidence, er, testimonials to that.

              1. “Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.”

                1. Yup. Why let the bad guy get that close? (OK, OK, there are reasons, depending on your world/universe/tech level, but still.)

        2. Then there are the times something goes WRONG, and management refuses to allow a change in flight profile to help alleviate the impending disaster.

            1. My sympathies.

              (It just makes makes me so mad thinking about it when I read that “they” didn’t want to rent a telescope to check out the impact site on the wing.)

            2. Sorry to hear that.
              My dad worked with one of those screaming “Tell them to Yaw and protect that wing” and even though it was inside the design limits, it was outside the “preferred” amounts allowable and well, it might not work.
              Of course not doing a thing will certainly not work.
              The man quit over this.
              “With these idiots in charge, Apollo 13 would have been the end of NASA space flight”

      2. I know a NASA contract engineer at JSC who’s most recent assignment was working on a sewage processing unit for the ISS/lunar habitat. Talk about glamorous…….

        1. I should be ashamed that I know of this …

          But it is important to remember the basics still apply in extra-terrestrial circumstances.

        2. I know that for many years, the Shuttle toilet took, ah, solid matter and centrifuged it against the interior of a tank, which then was opened to vacuum, almost instantly dessicating the material. Once on the ground there was some poor schlep responsible for retrieving the dessicated poop AND ANALYZING IT. And it wasn’t like you were analyzing each astronaut’s poop individually, either. I never was able to find out what the [expletive deleted] they thought they were gonna find out from it.

          So…yeah. I got nothin’. I’m just glad I didn’t have THAT job.

          1. I hope the Mission Specialist responsible for that analysis at least enjoyed the compensation of being able to claim, “I’ve got the sh*t*est job in NASA.”

            1. Mission Specialist is an astronaut, RES. This would have been a ground analyst.

              Astronaut positions: Commander (CDR); Pilot (PLT); Mission Specialist (MS-1, -2, -3). Non-astronaut flight position: Payload Specialist (PS-1, -2).

              Flight control positions are legion. I worked, on various missions, as a Timeline Engineer (TLE), Execution Timeline Engineer (XTLE), MPAC (Middeck [glovebox] Payload Activity Coordinator, and Astronomical File Manager (FLM).

              And no, contrary to what a lot of people believe, I never actually flew myself, though I WAS, at one time, a candidate for payload specialist for the project I was working on. Then Challenger went blooie, they grounded the fleet, and the prototype testing phase of my project got canceled as a result.

  7. Awesome post, thank you Stephanie. Looking forward to more. Especially articles connecting what we know about the sun with what we know about other stars.

    1. Thank you, Paul. The current series is pretty much just about the Sun. If everybody likes it and wants it, and if Sarah still wants to have me back after all of it, then I can look at talking about spotted variable stars in a later post or several.

    1. It’s all a matter of scale, ennit? A point ought ought one percent change in solar surface temp, solar mass or diameter may only be trivial rounding error for Sol but involve more energy/mass/space than a fifty percent fluctuation of the Earth. (Ain’t doing the math on my day off.)

      Sorta like the difference between a BIG fart for derpfish and a little fart for a blue whale.

  8. Thanks for a very interesting article. Also enjoyed the comments and questions. I look forward to more articles like this if you have time. I am a non-polymath whose last physics class was almost 6 decades ago. Things have changed! Thanks, Sarah, for encouraging her to blog here. Will look for her books.

    1. Thank you, Bobbie, and thank you again for checking out my books! Website

      And this is the first of a series of articles. I was told, last I knew, that Sarah was planning to post them once a week (probably Th) and there’s enough posts in this series to run for about two months, I think.

      1. Will you discuss the Maunder Minimum and the last ice age and the possibility of a new one? I’ve been following the discussions about the sun being less active as shown by a paucity of sunspots. Of course this may not be of interest to anyone but me.

    2. Steph has done seven of these and already delivered them through me to Sarah who tells me she plans one a week on Thursdays. Seems her Highness has quite the list of overdue book deadlines to address, so a few interesting guest posts were most welcome.
      Worth mentioning that with only a modest bit of prodding Stephanie has established both a FaceBook page and a blog dedicated to the Osborn Cosmic Weather Report. Blog for articles much like this one, and the FB page for running comments and links to space related news of the day. Page is a closed moderated group, but they haven’t turned anyone away that I know of.

  9. Vary nice article. I look forward to the sequels.

    I note in passing that if Sol is a long-term borderline variable, that pretty much junks all the “if we hold solar inputs constant and diddle with the greenhouse gas concentrations” climate change models that any researcher ever made their postdocs run for them.

    1. You might also note that I’m not the only variable-star astronomer/solar physicist paying attention to these things. You might also note this:

      According to some of the articles on the matter that I’ve seen, a group of climatologists actually went to the Royal Astronomical Society and asked to have the double-dynamo solar model research suppressed. The RAS refused to do so, and told the climatologists they needed to go sit down and talk with the astronomers…

    2. You might also note that I’m not the only variable-star astronomer/solar physicist paying attention to these things. You might also note this:

      According to some of the articles on the matter that I’ve seen, a group of climatologists actually went to the Royal Astronomical Society and asked to have the double-dynamo solar model research suppressed. The RAS refused to do so, and told the climatologists they needed to go sit down and talk with the astronomers…

      1. There we go. And so the second part of my comment was,

        According to some of the articles on the matter that I’ve seen, a group of climatologists actually went to the Royal Astronomical Society and asked to have the double-dynamo solar model research suppressed. The RAS refused to do so, and told the climatologists they needed to go sit down and talk with the astronomers…

        1. That was rude of the RAS. It seems to me that the climatologists would find a more sympathetic audience amongst the astrologers.

            1. It wasn’t even their field, either.

              And since they’ve been all big on the, “You’re not a climatologist, you can’t give us your opinion on climate,” I feel no compunction about telling them, “You’re not an astronomer, you can’t give us your opinion on astronomy.”

  10. You might toss in something about scale. Recently a Japanese tv show had a large ball … Say 40 centimeters or so? Which was the sun. And a little blue dot on a stick, which was the Earth. Then they asked the panel to estimate how far apart the ball and the blue dot should be to match the actual ratio. When everyone missed, they had the person carrying the sun run across the studio, out the doors, and stop on a line way, way out there. Then they tossed in something about it taking 50 years at the top speed of the Shinkansen (bullet train — 200 kph?) to get from the Earth to the sun. And reminded us that Voyager started … Is it 40 years ago? And has just barely gotten out of the neighborhood. I thought it was great.

    1. That new show with Stephen Hawking on PBS did something similar. I think there’s enough out there that if people want to know, they can google it. This sort of stuff is NOT something that can be googled, so I’d sorta like to concentrate on that.

  11. Totally OT, if you don’t already have all of them, Georgette Heyer’s books are $2.99 on Amazon and Kobo. I just loaded up on the romances for later.

    1. Thanks for the heads-up! I have some store credit at Kobo, so I’m going to get all of them that I can.

  12. OK, y’all have been properly appreciative of Steph’s attempts to edumacate the clan, so here’s a bit of a peek into the weeks ahead, courtesy of kindly old Uncle Lar. You will note that neither Steph nor I are slaves to a foolish consistency of nomenclature.
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather Part I – An Introduction
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part II – Solar cycles
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part 3 – Earth effects
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part 4 – Cause of CMEs
    Solar Activity and the Activity Indices Part 5
    Solar-Earth DefCon Levels Part 6
    Space Weather — The Carrington Event Part 7

    1. You cannot seriously intend to use such inconsistent numeration! Everybody knows the proper ordinal sequence should be:
      Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather Part I – An Introduction
      Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part 2 – Solar cycles
      Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part C – Earth effects

      1. Yeah, I just checked. I am emailing you the MOST RECENT version of the file, and it does have consistent numbering throughout. I thought I sent it already, but maybe not.

  13. As an ham, Solar Minimum sucks, you end missing the easier HF propagation that a more active star brings. But it forces everyone to be more resourceful in which modes they use on those bands.

    But as causal astronomy and political buff, I wonder what a Maunder Minimum cooling period would do to all the global warming doom proponents?

    1. They’ll default to the 1970s “we must conserve energy or we’ll freeze to death in the dark” with an added dose of “The Global North deserves this for oppressing/suppressing/not paying off the Global North.” Ignoring the fact that parts of the Global South have been badly hurt by recent cold winters and cool summers. Ask the folks in New Zealand who had to dig their cars out after the blizzard three weeks ago. Or the families of the herders who froze to death in South Africa two weeks ago.

  14. Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
    And revolving at 900 miles an hour.
    It’s orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
    The sun that is the source of all our power.
    Now the sun, and you and me, and all the stars that we can see,
    Are moving at a million miles a day,
    In the outer spiral arm, at 40,000 miles an hour,
    Of a galaxy we call the Milky Way.

    Read more: Monty Python – Galaxy Song Lyrics | MetroLyrics

    1. Okay, actually some of those speeds aren’t correct. The rotational speed of the Earth at the equator is about 1,040mph. Orbital speed is just shy of 19mi/sec, yes. But the solar system as a whole is moving at a speed of well over a half-million miles an hour, which means it’s moving a LOT further than a million miles a day.

      Sorry, Monty Python.

  15. OK, lets try this again. And the latest files have all been delivered into Sarah’s hot little hands, or so she tells me. And has confirmed her intention to put one up every Thursday as long as they last or until overcome by events.
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather Part I — An Introduction
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part II
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part III
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part IV
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part V: Solar Activity and the Activity Indices
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VI: Solar-Earth DefCon Levels
    Solar, Space, and Geomagnetic Weather, Part VII: The Carrington Event

    As I’ve been wont to remark to both Sarah and Stephanie, good help is hard to find. But half-@ssed help contributed for free is a treasure beyond price.

    1. All I got to say is that you are more like whole-@$$ed help, dear. (Double-@$$ed? No?)

      And I appreciate you more than you will ever know, because even as a writer, I dunno how to adequately say it.

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