Rambling travelogs from a world traveler

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Big Sunspot

 "Knowledge has a trick of paying off in unexpected ways." 
        ~  Poul Anderson, The Boat Of A Million Years

Gentle Readers and Loved Ones,

I'm going to go all astronomy geek on you again.  For the last two weeks or so, the sun has been going through a period of really big sunspots and solar flares.

Please click this and this for information.

I saw this spot on the sun with my naked eyeballs on Thursday, Oct 23. It took a fairly non standard set of events to see it.  We were sitting on the ramp on Beijing Capital International Airport, waiting for the load and refuel crews to finish before we left for Incheon, South Korea.  The latest weather observation was clear and visibility unlimited, which in Beijing means the smog gives you about a mile of visibility.  Maybe less. 

Which is the point of this story, because the smog was just thick enough that you could look at the face of the sun comfortably.  The sun is almost exactly the same relative size as the moon when looked at from Earth - which is why solar eclipses are so cool - and you could see the big sunspot those articles talk about on the lower face of the sun.  You didn't even need sunglasses.

It felt kind of ominous to me.  That thing is tossing out stupendous amounts of ionizing radiation and is just generally bad news...and it looked like it was pointing right at us.

But there was also a sense of wonder to be able to see what is usually unseen while sitting on a flight deck looking west.

It looked a lot like this picture if you imagine black sky around it replaced by gray smog. 

On that happy note, I remain,

Dad / Geoff

No comments: