Right on the heels of my posting yesterday how Mother Nature loves mirrors, another example of this pops into the news! In this case, the solar sun spot cycle mirrors the earth's geomagnetic indices! With a mysterious five to ten year lag! No one has any idea how this works or why it works this way!
Dec. 21, 2006: Evidence is mounting: the next solar cycle is going to be a big one.
Solar cycle 24, due to peak in 2010 or 2011 "looks like its going to be one of the most intense cycles since record-keeping began almost 400 years ago," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center. He and colleague Robert Wilson presented this conclusion last week at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
Ulimately, the earth heats up because the sun heats us up. The mix of gases in our atmosphere then determines how much is captured and kept within our ecosphere. Ski resort owners should just give up if they are in the lower elevations. There will be no reliable winters for the next ten years at least.
The sun definitely cycles. Like all things in nature, it isn't inert but rather has periods of gathering strength and then releasing of energy. Astronomers and geologists now believe the Earth was once locked in ice billions of years ago. This was surmised to be caused by the sun not 'shining' as much light as today. The star wasn't as active, in other words. Then, mysteriously, it 'fired up' and began to warm up the planet about 1.3 billion years ago and life began on earth in ernest.
Another mystery! I love these mysteries! In general, cycles tend to be part of something bigger than themselves, seeing how they connect is part of the joy of being an investigator. I am not an astronomer or even a scientist, I was born and raised in observatories...literally. I grew up with this community. I am not so hot with the numbers thing but I 'see' things all the time, it is a gift Pegasus gave me along with a few million volts of pure energy on several occasions.
Our sun is an old star. It has existed for one quarter of the length of Time itself, since the Big Bang. The fact that we are still way outside of the core of the Milky Way has convinced me many years ago that the sun is part of another, much smaller galaxy that fell into the Milky Way since it is an IRON LAW of Nature that ALL galaxies fall into ALL other galaxies. (Clearing my throat here) Whatever mathematical formula one arrives as to explain this reality, I would be in awe of the scientist able to do this. I always thought it was very amusing for Mother Nature to create the potential for all things to be expressed as numbers but that takes us back into religion and why the universe can be mirrored as numbers...
What causes stars to be born and to shine? Astronomers say, they form out of basically loose stuff that gets 'compressed'. &hearts We see stars forming not too far off from us here in this arm of the Milky Way, such as in the Orion constellation area where we see great clouds and sheets of 'non-shining' stuff, this is where the famous Horsehead nebula resides.
The nebulosity of the Horsehead is believed to be excited by the bright star Sigma Orionis, which is located above the top of the image. Just off the left side of the image is the bright star Zeta Orionis, which is the easternmost of the three stars that form Orion's belt. Zeta Orionis is a foreground star, and is not related to the nebula. The streaks in the nebulosity that extend above the Horsehead are likely due to magnetic fields within the nebula. Close study reveals that many more stars are visible in the top half of the image. Stars in the lower half of the image are obscured by a dark cloud of hydrogen gas
&hearts Orion is part of 'our' neighborhood, it is also part of something we are smack dab in the middle of, ourselves:
A description of our local region within the Milky Way would not be complete without a mention of Gould's Belt. In 1879 the astronomer Benjamin Gould reported his survey of the distribution of bright stars in the local Milky Way. Gould's work showed that a true local subsystem of young stars and gas existed in a rotating flat disk inclined some 20 degrees to the proper disk of the Milky Way. The disk extends some 2000 light years across and contains some of the most famous astronomical objects including the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula and Horsehead regions, the California Nebula, the Coal Sack and the Rho Ophiuchus clouds near Antares. Gould's Belt must be a young structure between 30 and 40 million years old by virtue of the young stars it contains but its origins are still unclear. One theory is that an errant supercloud collided with a major spiral arm of the Milky Way about 100 million years ago. The shock wave resulted in the process of braking and compression of the gas of the supercloud into a flat rotating disk. The older stars drifted out of the disk leaving the younger stars to form Gould's Belt.
Um, 4 billion years ago, our sun was born in this 'errant supercloud'. Stars born in smaller galaxies form groups. How shall I put it? Galaxies minding their own business, breezing along their ARC in the cosmos, sail along with old stars, all pretty much stable yellow guys along with assorted amounts of gases and thingies we call 'dust' and 'comets' and whatevers. Junk. And this largish mass with a non-blackhole center, namely, not very intensely organized but still enough gravity to form stars of middling size like our own sun, when two galaxies finally get within each other's tidal surges, they light up like a Christmas tree!
In a now-classic 1974 paper, Richard Stothers and Jay Frogel ["The Local Complex of O and B Stars. I. Distribution of Stars and Interstellar Dust," R. Stothers and J. A. Frogel (1974), Astron. J., 79, 456.* -- WebEd.] mapped out the spatial extent of the belt. Using newly determined distances for B5 and hotter stars, they found two highly flattened stellar systems inclined by 19° – 22° to each other -- the underlying galactic field and Gould’s belt. Figure 1 below shows an edge-on view from within the galactic mid-plane. The dots represent stars of spectral type B5 and earlier (hotter). The Sun is at the intersection of the X and Z axes, and the galactic centre is well out of the view to the right, 8,500 parsecs (pc) distant. The intersection of these planes coincides almost exactly with the position of the Sun. Actually, the Sun is about 20 pc above the galactic plane, but is, within the errors, precisely in the plane of Gould’s belt. The stellar density decreases with distance from the Sun because stars at greater distances are less completely sampled.
Brilliant, hot, white suns of super-duper size form out of all that 'stuff' that is the envelope of the older, yellow stars. A classic way to detect a smaller galaxy merging with a bigger one is, the new star formation areas are at an angle to each other just like our own mini-galaxy which I will call the Orion Galaxy since the starmaking in that section is most intense right now.
When our happy little sun fell towards the Milky Way, the neighborhood became hotter, literally. And the sun became more active, too. Now we are in the grip of greater tidal forces, doubled. And between them, our sun shines quite actively. The earth heated up and the ice melted and life teemed across the surface. The outside forces working on our sun aren't even, there is obviously some pulsation involved over long cycles. We can't see them all..yet. But with the new probes, we see more and more.
Even with our current state of knowledge, dating eons-old events in the Galaxy is fraught with difficulty. To be certain by better than a factor of two is to do well. That said, the history of Gould’s belt as currently envisioned is as follows. Perhaps more so than today, the belt in the past comprised a sheet of discrete clouds of gas mingled with stars. Some 30 million years ago an event triggered a burst of star formation at the position of the Per OB3 association [also refered as 'Alpha Per group' -- WebEd.]. This could have been the passage of the last spiral density wave through the area, the collision of a high-velocity cloud falling back through the galactic plane, or the latest oscillation of the belt through the galactic midplane. Any such mechanism would have sufficiently compressed the affected molecular clouds comprising the belt to initiate star birth.
Note the quesiness of this passage. Thinking of our sun as part of a smaller galaxy that is now being ripped apart by the Milky Way is scary. So there is a lot of evasion in the thinking of astronomers. They might break out of this and reconsider things. I think it is neat, we came here from somewhere else! This makes our journey through the cosmos most interesting. We have to consider this: we are probably a small piece of the Big Bang that shot outwards in a long trajectory, we sailed through the cosmos for around 8 billion years before we began to close in on the Milky Way that reeled us in like a fisherman brings in the trout.
Note that the asteroids, meteorites and comets menacing us aren't coming from the Milky Way but are from our own galaxy that is still being pulled relentlessly into the Milky Way's orb! This means 'local' events are from our own cosmos and not part of the larger cosmos of the much bigger galaxy that has captured us. How all this affects the sun is still to be seen. All I know is, our sun isn't all that stable anymore and our planet, one of the livelier ones in this sector of creation, mirrors some of this...