16 April 2010

Solar Science and Solar Cycle 24

Time for the sun!  Coincidence had a question about solar cycle 24 (what is it, how long are they) hitting my email box the day before I ran in to an astronomer friend who is working with the recently-launched solar dynamics observatory.

For the first, the obvious answer is the correct -- this is the 24th time since records started that the solar cycle has been on the increase.  'solar cycle increase' meaning, in part, the sunspot counts are increasing.  But the sun does a lot more than just get spots.  The Space Weather Prediction Center keeps an eye on the sun, including these other things (go have a look, see the sun as if you had x-ray vision!).  And, naturally, tries to predict things that are influenced by solar activity.  The cycles average something like 11 years, but vary greatly from cycle to cycle (8-15 years).  The activity minimum we are now leaving was unusually deep and unusually long.

On the second, I'll mention that he (William Bridgman) blogs at Dealing with creationism in astronomy.  An article that I'll be taking a look at, and encourage the more technical readers to do likewise, is his The Cosmos in Your Pocket: How Cosmological Science Became Earth Technology. I 
Here's his abstract:
Astronomy provides a laboratory for extreme physics, a window into environments at extremes of distance, temperature and density that often can't be reproduced in Earth laboratories, or at least not right away. A surprising amount of the science we understand today started out as solutions to problems in astronomy. Some of this science was key in the development of many technologies which we enjoy today. This paper describes some of these connections between astronomy and technology and their history.


Alastair said...

If less than 50% of Americans can accept that life evolved, then how many can accept that burning fossil fuels could make the planet uninhabitable?

With the US being a democracy and pumping 25% of man made CO2 into the atmosphere, what hope for humanity?

Isn't it about time that US liberals started to shout down the Tea Party brigade?

Cheers, Alastair.

EliRabett said...

While astronomy is indeed about extreme physics, restraining the imagination of astronomers is an important activity of laboratory science.

jg said...

Thank you for this topic. Astronomy was my first love, before denialists made understanding climate more interesting and urgent. I'm enjoying the Cosmos in Our Pocket paper. On page 11, there is a binary star illustration which is very similar to an interactive exoplanet illustration I'm working here: Red shift/blue shift with exoplanet

Sorry for going a little off topic, but couldn't resist sharing.

Bayesian Bouffant, FCD said...

Would you be interested in putting together a post on the climatic impact of a large volcanic eruption? How large will the effect be, and how long can it be expected to last (the effect, not the eruption. Make whatever assumption you feel appropriate about the size and duration of the eruption and ash cloud.)

Thank you.

Robert Grumbine said...

I'll take this chance to remind all that this is not a political blog.

Yep, we need both the wild flights of fancy, and some ground truth or lab science to rein in the flights.

I also started in astronomy, or at least my first scientific thoughts were there.

I'm rather behind the times, but yes, it's a good topic for a full post.

Alastair said...


I see I am not the only one worried: