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Jacki Lyden in for Tom Ashbrook
This hot summer, we’ll look into the heart of the star that brings us all life. The science and mystery of the Sun.
Oh, yon flaming orb. Every day, Helios’s chariot carries you across the sky.
Well, perhaps not: but the 27 million degree star that rules our every waking hour actually has a beating heart. Well, a pulse.
Anyway, it also generates a kajillion fascinating facts — did you know you get more Vitamin D from ten minutes in the sun than 200 glasses of milk?
We explore stories of the star, its eclipses, storms, shelf-life and why somewhere over the rainbow, it's way up high.
This hour On Point: Here Comes the Sun.
Bob Berman, author of The Sun’s Heartbeat: and Other Stories from the Life of the Star that Powers Our Planet. He's also a columnist for Astronomy magazine and science editor of the Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Madhulika Guhathakurta, NASA astrophysicist, and an expert on heliophysics and space weather. She's lead scientist for NASA’s “Living With a Star” initiative, which focuses on understanding the effects of solar variability on technology and human life.
This hour, we'll hear:
"Here Comes The Sun" by the Beatles
"Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" by Bill Withers
"Higher Than The Sun" by Primal Scream
The Sun blows out another big flare
Excerpt from The Sun’s Heartbeat: and Other Stories from the Life of the Star that Powers Our Planet:
Then, since 2000, what had previously been a trickle of new Sun discoveries became a flood. And a flotilla of six amazing solar-dedicated spacecraft was almost routinely providing revelations.
How many of our friends know that there’s a “sun inside the sun”? Or that a bizarre, newly found zone beneath the solar surface, the tachocline, is solely responsible for its violence? Or that we just experienced the oddest solar cycle in over 200 years – which has apparently stopped global warming in its tracks? Or the scary stuff, like an all-star government panel that urgently warned that a particular kind of solar storm could effectively destroy our power grid at any time, with repairs to the tune of one to two trillion dollars?
Is it really mostly the Sun’s changing brightness – and not human activity – that’s altering our temperature? Is my own Old Farmers Almanac correct in predicting, ostensibly using scientific reasoning, that a global cooling is in the cards?
How can we create a valid public policy regarding climate change if the culprit is not ourselves but the nearest star? Or are such arguments mere rationalizations and cop-outs, a fog created by a deliberate or ignorant misreading of today’s cutting-edge solar science? And what about the medical advice to cover our skin when we venture out – has this drained our blood of its vital cancer-fighting vitamin D? And what should we make of the Sun’s eternal hand-to-hand combat with our world’s magnetic field; its complete power over our solar system and satellites; the billions of particles it powers through our brains?
It’s time to find out.
This program aired on August 5, 2011.
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