Each new mission brings new discoveries about the sun and the most recent are the boldest ever. On June 16, NASA scientist actually visited the sun. Well, not actually but a newer more efficient Solar Probe did snoop and it sent back at least one startling fact. The sun is not round as previously thought. Its shape, one site reported, is that it is nearer oval than round. No actual NASA facts to support that, but that shape makes sense. If it is not round, and it isn’t square, it must be somewhat oval. Already astronomers know a lot about its eleven year cycles, they’ve been watching how it behaves, how the wind rearranges it outer perimeters, and all that knowledge whets their appetite for more, and more.
Precisely, their intentions with this new Solar Probe Plus are to learn “why the sun’s outer atmosphere is hotter than it surface; and why the solar wind is such a disorganized mess. Until this latest discovery, the most recent discoveries came about by special satellites that studied solar eclipses. Since the sun belongs to everyone, everyone is involved in collecting facts and making observations about it.
That alone makes knowledge about the sun a mixture of fact and fiction, not unlike its own capacity to charm and to elicit comments. Yet unlike alchemy, it is not a pseudoscience, it is real. The error comes from humanity’s inability to interpret the sun’s facts correctly; it does not come from a lack of interest? Who is there among the walking inhabitants of the earth not interested in the sun?
Most of man’s observations are simple ones: what causes the sun to suddenly stop shining; what time will the sun go down; and why, if you stay too long in a noon day sun you will get burned. Since the beginning of time, the sun has been a source of wonder and has elicited such questions and observations. It is no wonder then that when total eclipses were first observed, they were absolute predictors of doom and extremely frightening experiences. In more recent centuries, astronomers have learned that when a larger astrological mass passed in front of the sun, it blocked it from the earth’s view.
According to online sources, the first solar eclipse was recorded on a clay table and was later found in Ugarit, now known as Syria. The date was 1223 B.C.; In China a little later a solar eclipse was verified in 1217 B.C. The most recent solar eclipse – observable in US – happened on March 29th 2006, according to MSNBC. Now, these annular eclipses are predictable events where scientists are able to plan their activities accordingly. Now they are ready at the precise place to learn about the behavior of the sun and to possibly gauge future happenings.
Three other recent observations added new knowledge about the Sun while confirming what already was known. On April 1, 1998 Alan Title and Leon Golub, US astronauts observed the Sun from space by use of the NASA TRACE satellite (Transition Region and Coronal Explorer) that was launched. This was a first.
Prior to that on December 2, 1995, Gunter Buckner and his colleagues discovered by way of the SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) satellite further knowledge about solar ejections; the year before on May 10, 1994 Alan Clark and his crew of the United Kingdom/Canada measured profiles of “spectral lines in the chromosphere that are caused by carbon monoxide by use of a lunar limb occultation during a annular eclipse”.
What of the above? The solar ejections, possibly are things or bits of debris tossed out by the sun routinely; The instrumental measurements of the effects of the lines drawn through the spectrum – the straight lines from the sun that change color the closer or further away they are – have been seen to have been distorted by the exhaust of carbon monoxide. The scientist, by means of a specialized instrument – which they are forever improving upon, are constantly attempting to learn more about the sun by tuning in to its activity.
These recent observations are a far cry from those first frightening eclipses where hoards were fearful the world was coming to an end. The more knowledgeable and scientific minded observers, even then, wanted to make sense of the phenomena observed. Yet, before the scientific worlds applaud itself on their superior intelligence to the chagrin of our ancient ancestors, it must be remembered that were todays wonder workers we so wise in their maneuvers, would the world still be far away from the truth of the universe we seek?
On 585 B.C., or there about, reports Greek Historian Herodotus, as reported by an online writer, an eclipse stopped a war. The Medes and the Lydians were scared out of their wits by an eclipse and they quit fighting. Nice work sun! It was much later that Newton discovered the principle of gravity which makes it possible today for astronomers to predict when future eclipses will occur.