On Friday Dave took me to the beach. The water was a bit chilly. I know this because I took off my shoes and played tag with the ocean. I also picked up a rock. It has stripes.
You know what else has stripes? The sky.
Last week the sun blasted us with charged particles. It disrupted high frequency radio waves for two days. The sun is beginning a cycle of regular solar storms, which should occur about once a month through 2013. They won't all hit us, of course--the sun is a sphere and could hiccup in any given direction, towards the Earth or not. These light shows--called aurora borealis in the North and aurora australis in the South--create some of the most beautiful skies ever visible on Earth.
Awesome thing number one: one charged particle is just a charged particle. But a collection of charged particles is actually plasma. A lot of science fiction stories include plasma guns--weapons that spout ionized gases that disrupt robotic systems, destroy living matter, and generally cause all sorts of excited chaos. Well guess what. The sun does this to us all the time.
Awesome thing number two: the sun does not hate us (or love us, take your pick)--other planets have auroras too. Jupiter continues to be my favourite planet. Check out this sweet picture of Jupiter's aurora:
That made me think, "I wonder what our aurora looks like from space?" Someone else thought of that too. Someone who actually gets to go to space.
Awesome thing number three: sometimes the Sun practices exploding. On these nights the Earth dresses up, like for a fancy dress party, sparkling with gems and plasma jewelry, the princess of the solar system. And we are just little germs, scurrying around on the surface building castles and highways, afraid that our communications systems will be disrupted by the sun.
One day I want to go to Alaska. I will plan my trip around projected solar flares. If I do it right, maybe I can see the aurora over the ocean. I'll take my striped rock and wear pinstriped pants and a striped scarf. If I'm lucky, stripes will even be in that season. Otherwise I will have to be uncool. Uncool, perhaps, but happy.