Solar Sector Boundary Crossing Refresher

To those not inclined, enthusiastic gushing over Earth poised to cross a fold in the heliospheric current sheet on April 29/30 likely falls flat. That’s OK, twenty years ago I wouldn’t have understood a solar sector boundary crossing meant geomagnetic storm. Living in a state of gob smacked wonder over auroras, didn’t equate to comprehending how or why – shreds of murky high school science were of little use. Solar dynamic’s light didn’t flicker until the day I decided to figure it out from the perspective of one without a formal science education.

In October 2014 I wrote a post titled “Solar Sector Boundary Crossing”. If I do say so myself – a concise, accessible, easily understood window to the wonder of solar dynamics.

“Hang on for a lesson in solar dynamics – Earth is experiencing a solar sector boundary crossing. Let me explain….

The sun produces wind (currently 410.9 Km/second) that blasts across the cosmos. Just like Earth, our Sun has a magnetic field – known as the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF).  Whipped into a spiral rotation, wind driven IMF rotates in one direction. It divides into spiral sections pointing to and away from the sun along the ecliptic plane ( a direct line between Earth and the Sun). The edge of this swirling mass has a surface separating polarities of planetary and solar magnetism called the heliosphere current sheet.

Earth’s magnetic field points north at the magnetopause (the point of contact between our magnetosphere and the IMF). If the IMF happens to point south at contact (scientific term, southward Bz) the two fields link causing partial cancellation of Earth’s magnetic field – in other words, opening a temporary door for solar energy to enter our atmosphere. Welcome solar sector boundary crossing – a phenomenon born of high solar wind and coronal mass ejections (CME’s – aka solar flares).

It takes 3 or 4 days for magnetism to sort itself out – in the meantime, and barring the occasional high frequency radio disruption,  wonky GPS and cell phones, peppered with sudden power grid failure events – we’re treated to kick ass auroras.”

Stumbling Upon Sweet Spots Close To Home

Decent weather and a work free weekend allowed two days of adventure with my husband. Nothing crazy, just a mutual fondness for starting the car and seeing where it takes us. The unspoken prize – stumbling upon sweet spots a stone’s throw from home. “Let’s go for a drive” is a call for fresh eyes on everything taken for granted. An opportunity to meander peacefully from confines of routine. Late Sunday afternoon, Lighthouse Park couldn’t have been any sweeter.

Notes at Lighthouse Park in West Vancouver

View from Lighthouse Park –



Pondering Nothing Wow About It

Ohio State University’s Big Ear radio telescope – April 15, 1977. Astronomer Jerry Ehman listened to cosmic static from star systems Chi Sagittarii in constellation Sagittarius. At 10:16 pm Eastern Time Big Ear recorded an inexplicable 72 second burst of radio waves – Ehman circled the anomaly, jotting “Wow!”. 39 years later the strongest cosmic radio signal ever recorded, remains the only unexplained radio signal from space.

Alien 'Wow!' Signal Could Soon be Explained

Enter former U.S. Dept. of Defense analyst Antonio Paris, now of St. Petersburg College in Florida. Paris suspects two “suspicious” comets (266P/Christensen and 335P/Gibbs, not identified until 2006 and 2008) created the “Wow!” kerfuffle. 1420Mhz is the radio frequency behind  Ehman’s “Wow!” Coincidentally, the same frequency neutral hydrogen hums in the cosmos (space is anything but silent – click now to listen ) Logically comets contain a lot of hydrogen, hydrogen Paris theorizes wreaked havoc at 1420Mhz the evening of April 15, 1977. “Wow!”, nothing more than an inadvertent surge of hydrogen courtesy of meddling comets.

Next year 266P will pass Chi Sagittarii, 2018 sees 335P’s orbit following suit. Paris hopes to test his theory but faces some challenges – it seems all radio telescopes are booked. Undaunted, Paris started a crowd funding campaign to buy or build his own telescope. (Linked below)

In wonder of “Wow!”, the possibility of noisy hydrogen annihilating a cornerstone of early cosmic wonder left me a little grumpy. No worries, it took 6 minutes to grow up and jump on science’s band wagon. Kick discovery ass Antonio Paris of St. Petersburg College, I wish you well.

Captives of Moral Laundry

Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries join Canadian residential schools in epitomizing my disdain for the Catholic church. Namesake of supposed prostitute Mary Magdalene, laundries imprisoned “fallen women” for guidance and reeducation – or so it began in 1765 Dublin when pious missionaries filled the first asylum by offering street prostitutes a “safe warm place”. Not even close – it seems the nuns had stumbled upon a system of  diabolical perfection.

Very quickly, the church realized unpaid labour was key to sustainable wealth – what better source of slave labour than fallen women. Morality, an easy sell in predominantly Catholic Ireland, thought nothing of “fallen” evolving to include unwed mothers, pregnant victims of rape, bastard children, women deemed mentally incompetent and orphans. Practically overnight, institutions sought “permanent” inmates to sustain lucrative laundry contracts from the state and military.

Any woman could find herself incarcerated at Catholic institutions. Prisoners without charge or trial, inmates without sentence, recourse or representation. Persons deemed morally inconsequential, thrown to the whim of repugnant moralists without explanation or hope. At birth infants became property of the church,forcibly removed for adoption. As if moral incarceration, disregard for legal and civil rights, forced labour and physical abuse weren’t enough – relinquishing infants didn’t release inmates from moral condemnation, unpaid labour was far too valuable.

Magdalene institutions evolved into perfectly acceptable social norms. So much a reality of Irish life, government awarded lucrative laundry contracts and diligently returned escapees to the nuns. Between 1765 and 1996, roughly 30,000 “morally wayward” women and children became prisoners of Catholic nuns. Laundry contracts fizzled in the early 60’s with modernization responsible for mechanized washing. Unfazed by implications,  Catholic nuns courted a fresh source of income. MB Games, subsidiary of toy maker Hasbro was setting up shop in Ireland, someone had to assemble their games.

Anyone over 40 recalls Mousetrap, Trouble and Kerplunk – board games rivaling Monopoly for space on rumpus room shelves. How could we know Catholic nuns met unmarked Hasbro trucks at Magdalene gates, or that “fun for the whole family” were packaged by prisoners of Catholic morality. ( To this day Hasbro refuses comment ).

In 1993 a mass grave containing 155 corpses was unearthed at one on the laundries. ( It seems the nuns lost a considerable sum of money on the stock market, forcing the sale of a piece of land – did they forget about the bodies, pray new owner wouldn’t dig during construction? By 2001 media attention forced the Irish government to admit abuse, while remaining steadfast on their assertion laundries were private institutions, absolving themselves of knowledge or collusion. A 2009 inquiry heard testimony from 1,500 survivors, resulting in 2,000 pages of unsatisfactory findings. In 2011 the United Nations Committee Against Torture “urged” further investigation. February 5, 2013 the UN committee published evidence of state “collusion” in atrocities. February 19, 2013 Prime Minister Enda Kenny formally apologized for “the nation’s shame”

“Therefore, I, as Taoiseach, on behalf of the State, the government and our citizens deeply regret and apologise unreservedly to all those women for the hurt that was done to them, and for any stigma they suffered, as a result of the time they spent in a Magdalene Laundry.”[49][50]

The Taoiseach also outlined part of the compensation package to be offered to victims of the Magdalene Laundries. He stated:

“That’s why the Government has today asked the President of the Law Reform Commission Judge John Quirke to undertake a three month review and to make recommendations as to the criteria that should be applied in assessing the help that the government can provide in the areas of payments and other supports, including medical card, psychological and counseling services and other welfare needs.”

The Catholic church has no intention of apologizing, nor will they contribute to a compensation fund for survivors. A jaw dropping article (linked below) published July 2013 in Catholic League describes “lies” in “Myths Of The Magdalene Laundries”. Yikes!




Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain

I have some weaknesses, one being an addiction to reality TV’s the Voice. Screw American Idol, the Voice explains why Idol went off the air. If you haven’t been exposed to Voice the premise is simple – contestants have 90 seconds to entice judges to “turn their chair”. Blind auditions result in chairs “turned” for the voice rather than appearance. Over weeks, competition evolves from blind auditions to “battle rounds” (head to head competition forcing judges to eliminate one “voice” ) Finally, American voters whittle down contestants, determining “The Voice”. Last night a nail biter found Emily Keener in the “bottom two”. Emily “sang for her life” against Owen Danoff. Owen prevailed, Emily was sent home. Reduced to screaming WTF at my television – Emily was robbed! Did I mention she’s 17 years old? Watch Emily’s performance followed by Owen’s – you decide. Me – I can’t stop watching Emily,

Feline Facts and Rocket Cats

Cats rule in North America – 30% of households purchase cat litter for an estimated 73 million felines, compared to 63 million puppy chow homes. A group of cats is called a clowder, the technical term for a cat’s hairball is bezoar. Apparently cats can make about 100 different sounds compared to 10 from a dog. Most female cats are right pawed, males favour their left. Approximately 40,000 people are bitten by cats in America each year. During that year, roughly 4 million felines are eaten in Asia. It would take 24 cat skins to make a coat. Cats sleep 2/3 of every day, a nine year old cat has only been conscious for 3 life years. There are an estimated 60 million feral cats in the U.S. In 1963 French cat Felicette, dubbed “Astrocat”, was the first cat in space.

Historically, evidence of the first domesticated cat comes from a 9,500 year old grave on the island of Cyprus where feline bones were unearthed beside human remains. Ancient Egypt worshiped cats, smuggling them out of Egypt was punishable by death. When a family cat died Egyptians would mourn by shaving off their eyebrows, followed by an elaborate funeral feast and placing mummified felines in the family tomb (complete with tiny mummified mice ). In 1888 over 300,000 mummified cats were discovered in an ancient cemetery – according to RandomHistory (linked below) they were “unwrapped” and sent abroad to be used as fertilizer by farmers in England and America. ( don’t despair – I agree this needs a fact check assignment ).

Christianity wasn’t kind to cats. During the Spanish Inquisition Pope Innocent VIII oversaw the incineration of countless evil felines ( really bad decision – bye, bye pest control, hello black death ). At the midsummer festival of St. John’s Day, towns across medieval Christian Europe gathered at bonfires to burn live cats. Associated with witchcraft and the devil, people shrieked with delight as bags of live cats roasted in flaming agony.

It’s possible “cat burning” inspired Franz Helm to detail rocket cats in a 1590 manual on siege warfare.

‘Create a small sack like a fire-arrow … if you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place.

‘And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited.'”

No evidence of rocket cat warfare exists other than Helm’s siege manual – history freely pardons the suggestion of incendiary felines. Other animals weren’t as fortunate. Check out the link below –

Measuring The Speed of Light

More than a measure of distance the speed of light is a measure of time – once that makes sense, a light will shine on the cosmos. Most of us have experienced mind drifting time outs, that perceptible moment of realization when eyes glaze as confusion sets in – light speed exasperation needn’t be one of them.

Light travels at 300,000 kilometers per second – multiply the number of seconds in a year by distance light travels per second and you have a light year – approximately 9.5 trillion kilometers. Such daunting distances lend themselves to glassy eyes, so astronomer Robert Burnham Jr. devised the measure of AU (Astronomical Unit – 1 AU being 150 million kilometers, or the distance from Earth to the Sun ). One AU is about 8 minutes – the time it takes sunlight to reach Earth. One light year is equivalent to 63,000 AU. By mind blowing coincidence, there are 63,000 inches in a mile.

Scaling the astronomical unit at one inch, here are distances to various stars, star clusters and galaxies:

Alpha Centauri: 4 miles

Sirius: 9 miles

Vega: 25 miles

Fomalhaut: 25 miles

Arcturus: 37 miles

Antares: 600 miles

Pleiades open star cluster: 440 miles

Hercules globular star cluster (M13): 24,000 miles

Center of Milky Way galaxy: 27,000 miles

Great Andromeda galaxy (M31): 2,300,000 miles

Whirlpool galaxy (M51): 37,000,000 miles

Sombrero galaxy (M104): 65,000,000 miles

Distance established, what about time? Brian Cox of BBC’s Wonders Of The Universe said – “the speed of light is the speed limit of the universe, built into the very fabric of space and time”, “the further away an object is, the further back in time we see it”. Starting to glaze over? Relax, take a deep breath, spend 3 minutes watching this video. I promise you’ll feel better –

USTREAM and Other Cosmic Diversions

Each of us has our “thing”, mine happens to be cosmic. Hair on the back of my neck stands at attention when I stumble upon an outstanding interpretation or presentation of the cosmos.  Cosmic diversion doesn’t have to be your thing, but if you feel inclined – take a moment to ponder my thing.

Linked below, USTREAM – a live feed from the International Space Station.

SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) a joint European Space Agency and NASA project dedicated to all things space weather. A one stop wealth of information covering real time images of the sun to intricacies of space weather – a great place to learn.

Heavens Above – rather than waste time with enthusiastic babble – take a moment to explore it yourself. –

HubbleSite –