Space Weather

In this post, we will be discussing space weather! Space weather is dissimilar from the weather that we experience on earth, however it is still fascinating to understand. Space weather, in our solar system, is sparked by activity on the suns surface. Spewing gases and solar flares on the surface of the sun form into a stream of particles that we call solar wind. Solar wind carries all of these particles toward earth and the rest of our solar system at up to a million miles per hour. Luckily, due to earths atmosphere, these particles do not enter our atmosphere and we are protected from the harsh solar wind that the sun gives off. Shown in the image below, the atmosphere surrounding earth serves as a shield which deflects this wind.

An illustration showing the Sun's solar wind as orange flares blowing toward Earth and shaping Earth's magnetic field as blue lines
Image of solar wind deflecting on earths atmosphere, retrieved from NASA

Although incredibly deadly and harsh, sometimes these charged particles are able to sneak into our atmosphere and create something beautiful. This beauty is non other than the auroras that some people can only dream of witnessing.

A photograph of green aurora against a dark night sky
An Aurora as seen in Alaska, retrieved from NASA

Devastating to a world without an atmosphere, space weather is a fascinating side effect of a constantly volatile and hot space object similar to our sun. Luckily, we are born on a world with a natural defense and if any of these particles manage to pass through, a marvelous spectacle is waiting to happen.

Atmospheres of Terrestrial Worlds

In this blog we will be discussing the atmospheres of terrestrial worlds; more specifically what an atmosphere really is and the difference in atmospheres between different worlds. An atmosphere is simply a “layer of gas that surrounds a world.” In general, this relatively thin layer of gas is responsible for blocking the suns rays and trapping heat within a world. In the example of earth, the atmosphere is essential to our survival. Earth’s atmosphere creates a pressure barrier that allows for water to exist in all three states, oxygen to exist within our globe without escape, and maintain a temperature that is suitable for living. Below is an image that shows what earths atmosphere looks like from space.

Earth’s atmosphere from space

So, how does our atmosphere differ from other worlds within our very own solar system?

Mercury and our moon are similar in that their atmosphere is SO insignificant that they are often thought to not have one. This means that the suns harsh rays come in immediate contact with the surface as they are not scattered by a layer of gas. This also means that when standing on the surface of these worlds, the sky will be pitch black as opposed to Earth.

Venus, on the other hand, has a thick atmosphere. This makes it so that the sky is always cloudy and gloomy and the heat that is created as a result of volcanic activity is there to stay.

Archeoastronomy- Chichen Itza

Located in Southeast Mexico, Chichen Itza served as the home to one of the largest Mayan cities and possesses pristine examples of complex archeoastronomy. Perhaps the most interesting structure is the pyamid El Castillo which translates to “the castle.” This pyramid serves as a prime example due to its complex engineering and design that highlights the Mayan’s fascination with the cosmos. This building was designed so that twice a year, during the spring and fall equinoxes, the shadow cast by the sun creates a serpentine like pattern that connects to a snakehead at the bottom.

Image result for el castillo shadow
An image of El Castillo casting its serpentine like shadow during an eclipse.

Each side of the pyramid consists of 91 steps, and when considering the top platform as an additional step, there are a total of 365 steps signifying an individual step for each day of the year. This complex design only serves as an example as to how the cosmos was studied and cherished thousands of years ago. If you would like to learn more about El Castillo, follow this link.

Moon Phases and Eclipses

The moon is one of the most recognizable objects that appears in our sky and it has existed and has been celebrated for thousands upon thousands of years. Revolving around the Earth, the moon shows its face every night but with each cycle, appearing a little different. This is due to the moon phases- the variety of apparent shapes that it takes on based on our perspective of how sunlight reflects off of its surface from Earth. When the moon is in between the Earth and the Sun, light from the sun is not visible on the surface of the moon. When the moon is in the opposite position so that the earth is in between the moon and the sun, the moon is fully visible to us on Earth as all of the light that is reflected from the sun is visible. This is a full moon because, as the name suggests, the moon appears to be full. In between these two points, the moon can either appear to be a crescent shape, where less than half of the moon is visible, or what is known as a gibbous moon, in which more than half of the moon is visible.

Two types of eclipses may also occur due to the moon’s location in our sky, a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth is caught in between the suns light and the surface of the moon. This makes it so that the moon does not receive all of the suns light as it appears in the Earth’s shadow, giving it a reddish hue also known as a blood moon. A solar eclipse occurs when the moon is directly in between the sun and earth, causing the moons shadow to be cast down on earth. This form of eclipse is significantly rarer than its counterpart as the moon is much smaller than earth, resulting in a much smaller shadow.

Image received from Moonconnection.com

Ella Rose!

Attached is a picture of my favorite pupper in the whole world- Ella Rose :).

My family adopted Ella Rose when she was a puppy and she immediately fit right into our family. She is a Jack Russel terrier and Whippet mix, so she runs fast and jumps high! Above all else though, she is an adorable goof ball- having one blue and one brown eye, and an overbite so that her tongue more than occasionally falls out of her mouth.

Photo taken by yours truly

If you want to learn more about Jack Russel terriers or Whippet’s, click on their names to take you to their Wikipedia page.