NASA’s Dynamic Earth shows how the sun’s trying to kill us

… And what’s stopping it from doing so: mostly, the magnetosphere.

According to Frazer Cain of Universe Today, this is part of a larger video playing at the Smithsonian called Dynamic Earth: Exploring Earth’s Climate Engine.

I’d love to see the full video, if this snippet is any indication.

NASA’s Dynamic Earth shows how the sun’s trying to kill us

6 thoughts on “NASA’s Dynamic Earth shows how the sun’s trying to kill us

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    Indeed, the magnetosphere plays a very important role in the history of Earth’s atmosphere and climate, but those are very long-term effects. We know that periodically the Earth’s magnetic field changes and can flip from one orientation to another. During the flip (which can take thousands of years) the strength of the magnetic field is virtually zero and there is no magnetosphere to speak of. Luckily, the time required for the solar wind to strip our atmosphere (as in Venus) is much longer than that. More importantly, for the short term, is the role that the magnetosphere plays in “space weather.” It determines how the Earth’s environment responds to such things a coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

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    I sincerely hope that I get chance to see the entirety of it someday as it seems like a stunning creation thus far. In my mind, it manages to convey scale, fluidity, and complexity in a deeply beautiful, intuitive manner. I felt the sense of gleeful insignificance that I regard as vital to any effort akin to this. Sadly, I don’t possess the skills and experience necessary to comment on anything beyond abstract, personal aesthetic preferences but I hope it does a great deal of good in terms of generating factually accurate fascination.

    the sun’s trying to kill us

    This is my standard response whenever fellow British people complain that it’s too overcast and insist on prostrating before barbecues during transient heat waves. Of course, I could be suffering from meteorological Stockholm syndrome because rain has always been there to torture me.

    For me, the Sun is evil incarnate. It makes theistic ideas of hell-fire look paltry and is an insidious assailant because it uses means outside of vision or immediate sensation to attack us. If you look at any footage of its surface then you can see evil tendrils reaching out, trying to grasp us. Oh no, it won’t get me. I wear oodles of UV protection and remain indoors whenever possible.

    I’ll just conveniently forget that it’s responsible for life on Earth and ignore any vitamin deficiency. It clearly only helped to create us so it could sadistically cause cancer by necessitating exposure.

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    I’m pretty sure we ought to be thanking the Sun, considering that this rock would be a gigantic frost ball without all the free energy it keeps sending.

  4. 6

    @idontknow: Well, for astrophysical purposes 10% is almost zero for all values of 2 that are nearly equal to 1 🙂

    I’m not an expert on Earth’s main field but as I understand it, in the situation where the field reverses direction, the dipole moment passes through zero but higher order moments don’t. Thus at some point in the reversal the quadrupole moment is probably the dominant component of the field. This would still produce a magnetosphere but it would be amazingly different from what we are used to.

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