Friday, September 21, 2012

The Sun

 *  All art courtesy of "Google Images" and NASA.

by Felicity Blaze Noodleman


Some weeks ago, Aug 17, 2012 we did an article about the “Weather” in which we briefly mentioned the Sun and how it could affect our weather.  The specific question raised was -  would we be able to use solar data to assist in the prediction of our weather here on earth.  The information uncovered was a little more scientific than anticipated but has been translated into relatively simple and understandable terms.  As it turns out, the Suns “dark spots or sun spots” do affect earth weather and the Suns solar cycles occur every eleven earth years.  The Sun affects the conditions throughout our solar system with what has been termed as a “solar wind” which emanates from the corona of the Sun and Earth is also affected.
Since the study of the Sun is a whole field of science in itself as it pertains to our solar system and to the overall study of space in general, I thought it would be interesting if we knew a little more about our Sun.  Helioseismology is the area of science dedicated to the study of the Sun and is studied by Solar or Helio Astronomers.  NASA has used satellites for this purpose since the early 1960's in the "Pioneer" program.

Our solar system - relative size comparison to the sun


NASA has several satellites is place to assist astronomers with their work.  One of the latest generation solar satellites is known as “SOHO” (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory).  Launched in 1995 it is orbiting the Sun at a distance of 1.5 million kilometers from earth (about four times the distance to the moon).  This satellite is the joint venture of many different countries.  From its construction and including the instrumentation on board to the shared use of the data which SOHO collects and returns to Earth.  Originally designed for a two year mission, SOHO’s mission has been extended up through 2012 and may continue as long as the satellite is operational.  An interesting unexpected side benefit of the satellite has been the discovery of about 2,000 comets which has aided astronomers in this area of space study. The other NASA Satellite is called the “Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (Stereo)” and is capable of transmitting 3D images from space.  There are also other nations studying the sun from their own satellites.

(Left) "SOHO" - Solar and Heliospheric Observatory  
(Right) Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory "Stereo"

This illustration shows how the "STEREO" spacecraft work together. On February 6,
the two STEREO spacecrafts will be 180 degrees apart and for the next 8 years the
STEREO spacecrafts and SDO will be able toobserve the entire 360 degrees of the Sun.
Credit: NASA.

STEREO Beauty Pass

An artist's conception of one of the Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) spacecraft. The two observatories currently lie on either side of the sun, providing views of the entire sun simultaneously. Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Staring Into the Sun
Launched on Dec. 2, 2005, SOHO observes the sun's deep interior and also its interactions all the way out to Earth's orbit and beyond, where the magnetized solar wind of atomic particles sweeps through interplanetary space.  Image credit: NASA/ESA

One of the biggest questions I have about space and in this case the Sun is how do scientist know what they are talking about?  For example the age of our solar system and the Sun.  Is it a guess or do they have evidence to support their statements.  I mean we are talking about billions of years after all.  Are the numbers they are stating as fact real or are they just working numbers?  Clearly they could be millions of years off of their guess and still be in the ball park!  We hear about adjustments astronomers and scientist have made in their respective areas of study occasionally from time to time in the news so they are still clearly discovering and learning.


Two charts display cut away
of the suns construction into six layers and the life cycle of the sun .

The remainder of this article will be devoted to answering specific questions about the Sun and will help us grasp the information rather than just trying to digest all the raw data.


HOW  OLD  IS THE SUN?  4.57 billion years old.  Scientists have arrived at this number using computer models of stellar evolution through the nucleocosmochronology (a relatively new technique for dating astrological objects).   


WHAT  KIND  OF  ORBIT  IS  OUR  SUN  IN?  The Sun is in an orbit around the center of our galaxy, “The Milky Way”.  One rotation in known as a solar cycle and is approximately 11 years in duration.  The Sun also rotates on its own axis. Because the Sun is comprised of  gases it has different rotational speeds and therefore a variance of rotational times.  At the equator the Sun is rotating at about 7,189 kph or 4,467 mph.  Being made of gas different parts of the sun (north to south) rotate at different speeds but the equatorial regions rotate once every 25.05 days.  The Sun is currently traveling through the Local Interstellar Cloud in the Local Bubble zone, within the inner rim of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy.
The Suns rotation around the center of the "Milky Way".  In physics,
the center of mass or barycenter is the weighted average location of all the
mass in a body or group of bodies.
WHAT  IS THE  SUNS  DISTANCE  FROM  EARTH?  93 million miles.  There are two other planets between the Earth and the Sun - the planets Venus and Mercury.
WHAT IS THE  SIZE AND COMPOSITION OF THE  SUN?  Scientist have informally designated it as a G2V dwarf star but its total mass in more than everything in our solar system (99.86%).  Its radius is approximately 1,392,684 km or 864,938 miles and is 330,000 times that of earth.  The Sun is made up of hydrogen and helium with less than 1 % of other trace elements.   
Artists conception of the Suns core. 
WHAT  IGNITED  THE  SUN?  I think this is where the “Big Bang” theory originated and comes into our discussion.  A colossal explosion which created everything in the universe.  The mater created in this explosion is still growing, traveling and moving outward.
Artist conception of "The Big Bang" and expansion of the universe.
The universe is still expanding and growing.

HOW  HOT  IS  THE  SUN?  At the photosphere the temperature is 6,000 degrees Celsius - 5,778 k (58,000K for the sake or round numbers) and the corona is measured at 5x10 to the sixth power.  The sun generates its energy by nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium.  In its core, the Sun fuses 620 million metric tons of hydrogen each second.  This generates the Suns energy and is referred to as “plasma”.
WHAT  ARE  SUN  SPOTS?  These dark spots on the suns surface are cooler than average areas of the photosphere and usually last about two weeks.  Visible to Earth, these dark spots have been studies by astronomers for century's and were the first clues to the rotation of the Sun.
WHAT  ARE  SOLAR  FLARES?  A sudden eruption of magnetic energy released on or near the surface of the sun, usually associated with sunspots and accompanied by bursts of electromagnetic radiation and particles. Ultraviolet and x-ray radiation from solar flares often induce electromagnetic disturbances in the earth's atmosphere.

Views of the suns corona from the surface showing solar flares
Two views of the Sun
(Left) This composite image combines EIT images from three wavelengths (171Å, 195Å and 284Å) into one that reveals solar features unique to each wavelength. Since the EIT images come to us from the spacecraft in black and white, they are color coded for easy identification. For this image, the nearly simultaneous images from May 1998 were each given a color code (red, yellow and blue) and merged into one (NASA). 
(Right) Solar eclipse reveals the suns corona.

It is a theory about the origin of our universe. According to the big bang theory, the universe began as the result of an explosion that occurred between 15 and 20 billion years ago. Over time, the matter created in the big bang broke apart, forming galaxies, stars, and a group of planets we know as solar systems. The theory was first put forth by Edwin Hubble (1889-1953), who observed that the universe is expanding uniformly and objects that are greater distances are receding at greater velocities. In the 1960s Bell Telephone Laboratories scientists discovered weak radio waves that are believed to be all that remains of the radiation from the original fireball. The discovery further supported Hubble's theory, which puts the age of the universe between 15 and 20 billion years.

The Sun is a magnetically active star. It supports a strong, changing magnetic field
Magnetic field.  A magnetic field is a mathematical description of the magnetic influence of electric currents and magnetic materials. The magnetic field at any given point is specified by both a direction and a magnitude ; as such it is a vector field.Technically, a magnetic field is a pseudo vector;..  that varies year-to-year and reverses direction about every eleven years around solar maximum. The Sun's magnetic field leads to many effects that are collectively called solar activity

As there are three distinct periods which we know about in the earth’s history; the prehistoric age, the ice age and the period which we are now living in or the modern age, we can see how the Sun has a great affect on life in our world.  Life on earth is also determined by how the earth is rotating on its axis.  It is all determined by the power of our Sun.
Four images of a filament on the sun from August 31, 2012 are shown here in various wavelengths of light as captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Starting from the upper left and going clockwise they represent light in the: 335, 171, 304 and 131 Angstrom wavelengths. Since each wavelength of light generally corresponds to solar material at a particular temperature, scientists can compare images like this to observe how the material moves during an eruption. Credit:


Swirls of green and red appear in an aurora over Whitehorse, Yukon on the night of September 3, 2012. The aurora was due to the interaction of a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun with Earth's magnetosphere. The CME left the sun on August 31 and arrived on September 3. Image Courtesy of David Cartier, Sr.

I would like to thank wikipedia, and NASA for their assistance in producing the information contained in this article.  The study of the Sun is in so many ways foreign to physics and concepts in our world and is mind boggling with respects to the numerical statistics and terminology involved in the Suns description and how it works.  Scientist and solar astronomers are working and thinking on a completely different level of thinking  in their approach to analyzing the sun.  With continued study the Sun may unlock many of the secrets of our world and universe.  It could eventually take us beyond our temporal universe.

Now as we set a course to return to the planet earth we can feel a sense of accomplishment for the information we have gleaned from our voyage and study of the Sun and our solar system.  We now have a better understanding of how our solar satellites are working and sending their data to Earth.  Our satellites are in place and functioning properly as we leave.  I'm Felicity Blaze Noodleman and you've been our guest aboard the USS Noodleman for this voyage to the Sun as we engage for Earth.  See you next week!


I wanted to post this "Epilogue" to our NASA shuttle program since this weeks article is about space.  I photographed the shuttle in the early 1980's when the program was new.  Now the shuttle program is retired, space exploration is still continuing via satellites and orbiters with mission data being sent to earth at their respective mission control centers.  NASA has quite a few programs which are active at this time.  If you are interested and want to know more go to NASA's home page at and discover a wealth of information, photos and video.


Image above: NASA's Shuttle Carrier Aircraft carrying space shuttle Endeavour soars over the high desert of Southern California following takeoff from Edwards Air Force Base Friday morning on the last "California Tour" leg of its ferry flight into history.
Photo credit: NASA Dryden pilot Bill Brockett

Endeavour Ferry Flight Under Way

at 8:17 a.m. PDT

NASA  Fri, 21 Sep 2012 08:41:30 AM PDT

NASA's 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, carrying space shuttle Endeavour, departed Edwards Air Force Base at 8:17 a.m. PDT to begin a four-and-a-half hour flyover of northern California and the Los Angeles basin.

The SCA and Endeavour will salute NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center and the Edwards Air Force Base area after takeoff with a low flyby northbound to Sacramento and the San Francisco Bay Area. Any time after 9:30 a.m. PDT, watch for Endeavour from viewing locations that include the Bay Area Discovery Museum, Chabot Space and Science Center, the California State Capitol, Exploratorium, Lawrence Hall of Science and Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Next the aircraft will travel south, making a pass over NASA's Ames Research Center and Vandenberg Air Force Base before heading into the Los Angeles area. Any time after 11:30 a.m., watch for flyovers of Endeavour passing regional landmarks such as its future home at the California Science Center, Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey, Disneyland, The Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles City Hall, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, Malibu Beach, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, the Queen Mary, Universal Studios and Venice Beach, among others.

Finally, the SCA and Endeavour will land about 12:45 p.m., at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for an arrival ceremony before Endeavour is taken off the 747. The orbiter will be transported to the California Science Center next month.

The exact timing and path of the ferry flight will depend on weather conditions and operational constraints. Some planned flyovers or stopovers could be delayed or canceled.

Social media users are encouraged to share their Endeavour sightings using the hashtags #spottheshuttle and #OV105, Endeavour's vehicle designation.

NASA's space shuttle fleet began setting records with its first launch on April 12, 1981 and continued to set high marks of achievement and endurance through 30 years of missions. Starting with Columbia and continuing with Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour, the spacecraft has carried people into orbit repeatedly, launched, recovered and repaired satellites, conducted cutting-edge research and built the largest structure in space, the International Space Station. The final space shuttle mission, STS-135, ended July 21, 2011 when Atlantis rolled to a stop at its home port, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

As humanity's first reusable spacecraft, the space shuttle pushed the bounds of discovery ever farther, requiring not only advanced technologies but the tremendous effort of a vast workforce. Thousands of civil servants and contractors throughout NASA's field centers and across the nation have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to mission success and the greater goal of space exploration.


* “The Noodleman Group” is pleased to announce that we are now carrying a link to the “USA Today” news site.We installed the “widget/gadget” August 20, and it will be carried as a regular feature on our site.Now you can read“Noodleman” and then check in to “USA Today” for all the up to date News, Weather, Sports and more!Just scroll all the way down to the bottom of our site and hit the “USA Today” hyperlinks.Enjoy!

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