Monday, March 12, 2012

Solar weather

There has been a LOT of solar activity this past week.  Growing up, it FELT as though I had almost no connection to the space program whatsoever... but the reality was rather different.  For starters, Dad has quipped that the refrain of this song described one of his jobs:




Because his role was to monitor solar activity, like what's been happening this past week.  Space weather is complex, and about as subject to change as Earth weather.  I grew up knowing about sunspots, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, a little bit about how they can cause auroras when they reach Earth's magnetic field.  It's a layperson's understanding, I don't have the mathematics to describe it as an expert.  But it is fun and interesting.

It's also a concern for space exploration.  Earth's magnetic field only extends so far, and it doesn't go all the way to the moon.  So one of the engineering challenges for exploring the moon and Mars is figuring out a way to protect the crew from solar storms like we've seen this past week.