Why do we need to research Sun?

Till recently learning about the Sun was purely intellectual exercise, firmly in the domain of the basic science. The basic scientific research is one that is done for the sake of the knowledge itself. And it is the foundation of every applied science development.

godfreykneller-isaacnewton-1689
Isaac Newton

For instance, Newton researched gravity centuries ago. And he did it purely for the sake of knowledge, aware that there was no chance for him nor his country to profit of the revolutionary discoveries he made. Today, our GPS and Satelite TV works because Newton made that revolutionary discovery so long time ago.
Because knowledge about the Sun did not have any practical application, it developed rather slowly before space age.
Only when we learned that Sun has more effects on us than passive radiation and gravitation pull, the research intensified.
See, our current way of life, with all its technology depends heavily on what Sun will do.

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-16-08-57
SDO AIA 171 image of Sun taken on Feb. 17th, 2017. Curtesy of NASA’s SDO mission.

In the Sun’s atmosphere storms are raging. Not at the time I’m writing this. Sun is quite peaceful now.
Sometimes those storms are so strong that they eject pieces of the Sun into the space around it. And sometimes those pieces hit us. In science, such events are called Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).
And most of the today’s Sun research is geared towards learning how those storms form, what supplies them energy and how to predict them.

Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun - August 31
Eruption of CME

 

When CME is ejected towards the Earth, trouble for us starts. Earth has a magnetic field that usually protects us from a significant amount of the radiation and stops solar wind to blow away our atmosphere. But CMEs are so strong that they squish our magnetic field and partially sneak inside the atmosphere.
All up our recent technological boom, the only consequence of the CME impact were magnificent Aurora’s, but today, every time there is a storm on the sun we feel it.
Remember last time GPS showed crazy results, missing your location for a kilometer or so? Or your intercontinental flight got surprisingly longer? Well, most likely, there was a storm on the Sun that increased levels of charged particles ejected from the Sun causing few GPS satellites to malfunction and increased radio noise over the poles, forcing planes to avoid the area.
Stronger CME might burn out our satellites. And depending on the strength of the CME, even technology here on the surface of the Earth could burn out.
So being able to predict those storms seems like a splendid idea.

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2 comments

  1. That was a cool article. Now I’m going to look your blog to see if there’s an article about the moon.
    Nice meeting you today Alex

    Like

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