Posts Tagged ‘sun’

Solar flare stops satellites in China

// February 17th, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Science at Home

Solar Flare

Recent Solar Flare. Image by NASA

A solar flare the size of Jupiter erupted a few days ago and is now causing radio and satellite signals to drop out in China.

On Valentine’s Day, the sun had a coronal mass ejection associated with a flare, a burst of solar wind that speeds through space.

The ejected material is usually plasma and electrons, though sometimes helium and oxygen are also expelled. It was an X-class, the highest of all classes.

Let’s just enjoy for a moment the phrases Valentine’s Day, coronal mass ejection and X-class.

Anyway, the flare headed to Earth at 900 km per second, and the shockwave of it hitting us has caused a geomagnetic storm that messes with magnets.

It can also cause stunning auroral colours, like the Northern Lights, which have already been seen further south than usual. NASA is warning the flares will keep coming for a couple of days.

Long-lasting solar storms can cause electricity grids to stop working, causing black outs. Much of our technology is dependent on magnets – phones, credit cards, even hard discs when in use. One of my pet apocalypse theories is that a solar flare, or other strong magnetic space event, will wipe out computers and take with them electricity, water and money.

But clearly if your reading this, that hasn’t happened. So just continue to enjoy the phrase coronal mass ejection. Lolz.

Ivy vs UV, could plant nanoparticles be the new sunscreen?

// July 21st, 2010 // Comments Off on Ivy vs UV, could plant nanoparticles be the new sunscreen? // How Things Work, Recent Research

English Ivy

Image by Tamara Horová

Research published in June shows that nanoparticles from the English Ivy might make superior sunscreen to current brands, offering high broad spectrum protection and lasting for longer than current creams.

The trend towards organics has influenced industries like food, coffee and shampoo as well as pretty much everything you can conceivably imagine. Over the past few years, some people have become worried about sunscreen containing nanosized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. While these absorb light in the UV spectrum and protect the skin, perhaps the tiny particles could be absorbed through the skin and unleash toxic hell on the body! These could be unfounded fears, and damage from the sun is far more likely than damage from the sunscreen.

Personally, I’m all for synthetic chemicals. I think dear old Mother N has some freaky chemical concoctions of her own, many of which did not evolve to help humans but people inject it into their face anyway. Natural does not mean safe in my book.

All the same, ivy nanoparticles make a strong case. They absorbed or scattered light in the UV spectrum over five times better than titanium dioxide. The absorption dropped quickly when reaching the visible spectrum, so like current sunscreens it would look near invisible on your face.

Just like ivy can stick to brick walls and trees, the ivy nanoparticles have adhesive qualities. They could lead to sunscreens which last longer and are more water resistant. Hey, maybe that’s why Adam and Eve seem to always have ivy covering their-

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ResearchBlogging.orgXia, L., Lenaghan, S., Zhang, M., Zhang, Z., & Li, Q. (2010). Naturally occurring nanoparticles from English ivy: an alternative to metal-based nanoparticles for UV protection Journal of Nanobiotechnology, 8 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1477-3155-8-12

New images of the sun from NASA’s SDO

// April 25th, 2010 // 4 Comments » // Just for Fun, Recent Research

The SunThis is one of the first images sent to Earth from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) last week. The SDO satellite collects data and images of the sun, producing enough material to fill a CD every 36 seconds.

Most satellites share ground stations, but because of the monster processing power needed to store all this data, the SDO has one all to itself. Located in New Mexico, the ground station is in constant communication with the satellite. The satellite is in geosynchronous orbit, which means it rotates at the same speed as Earth and is always directly above the ground station.

In its voyage of five years, the SDO hopes to understand how and why the sun’s magnetic field changes. From that they hope to predict the solar winds near Earth, which can have drastic effects on technology. They might also learn to forecast the weather in space, potentially lifesaving for astronauts.

The images it has received so far are stunning. Even if the SDO doesn’t unveil all the mysteries of the sun, the mission will not be a failure. Click through for more images from the SDO.






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