January 11th, 2016
Join us on Tuesday, January 19 for this months NMTC Science Café on Solar Physics. Graduating Towson University Honor student, Kielan Wilcomb, who has served as an intern at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory for two years, will explain what it means.
Solar physics, a branch of astrophysics, is the study of our Sun. This is important because the Earth would not have a livable habitat if it werent for the Sun. The food we eat exists because of sunlight falling on green plants, and the fuel we burn comes either from such plants, or was accumulated by them. We enjoy the warmth of the Sun that reaches us within 8 minutes. There are direct health benefits of limited sun exposure such as Vitamin D production, helping your circadian rhythm, lowering blood pressure, and improving your mood.
The importance of predicting space weather, solar flares and other solar phenomena is critical. Our climate is directly affected by solar winds. Disturbances in the solar wind can shake the Earth’s magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts. Regions on the surface of the Sun often flare and give off ultraviolet light and x-rays that heat up the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Excess radiation can physically damage satellites and pose a threat to astronauts. Shaking the Earth’s magnetic field can also cause current surges in power lines that destroy equipment and knock out power over large areas.
Did you know that the Northern Lights are caused by great storms on the sun sending gusts of charged solar particles hurtling through space? If Earth is in the path of the particle stream, our planets magnetic field and atmosphere react. When the charged particles from the sun strike atoms and molecules in Earths atmosphere, they excite those atoms, causing them to light up.
Ms. Wilcomb, National Science Foundation S-STEM Scholar and Vice President of Towsons Student Physics Society, will help us understand these phenomena. Please come and enjoy a relaxed evening of discussion with others interested in the physics of our Sun.
What questions do you have about the sun?