NASA is celebrating the twenty year anniversary of SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory). Since its launch in 1995 it has provided scientists with data that has generated almost 5,000 papers and reports. Now, the gringa is well aware that this technology costs the U.S. taxpayer a pretty, little penny. Is it worth it? Well, let’s take a look at some of NASA’s reports on the information it has generated and if mankind has benefited.
Discoveries: coronal waves, solar tsunamis, sun quakes, and about 3,000 comets. The gringa says, “Big deal. Show me why that matters.” Well, for one thing, by detecting the activity of coronal mass ejections (CMEs), NASA can warn us Earthlings when there will be a geomagnetic storm caused by these CMEs colliding with Earth’s magnetic field. Such an event can really screw up my GPS, electronic communications, and put a real strain on power grids. I get lost driving around the block and depend HIGHLY on my GPS. Everyone everywhere depends on electronic communication. And, do you really want to be on the operating table and the power grid experience a “blip”. Mm hmm. Thought so. So, yeah, SOHO is doing a good thing for mankind. Anything else?
SOHO enables scientists to study invisible solar wind. Why does that matter? Well, solar wind can wreak havoc with technology. The astronauts on board the ISS are especially vulnerable to disaster caused by technological failure. The safety of the folks here on the big blue marble is also highly dependent on reliable technology in order to remain safe and sound. Since SOHO can track and study the comets that pass near the sun, by studying the wind-sock effect of their tails in solar winds, they can calculate reliable estimations of turbulence levels of solar wind and determine if any safety measures need to be taken.
NASA has produced an interesting video about how SOHO has discovered thousands of solar comets: “Why are We Seeing So Many Sungrazing Comets?” at this link: https://youtu.be/2u73bIzg5CU
Of course, with climate change ongoing upon Earth and ozone depletion occurring in Earth’s atmosphere, being well informed on solar radiation measurements is more important than ever. The outermost atmosphere of Earth is illuminated by about 1,400 watts of solar energy. The Earth physically absorbs about seventy percent of this. Weather and sunspot activity affects absorption levels so seventy percent is an average, not a constant. SOHO contributes to NASA’s ongoing efforts to create models of “future Earth” and how it’s relationship with the Sun will affect climate change.
The gringa thinks that, considering SOHO just might help mankind make a plan to save ourselves and this little speck of the universe we shoot through space on, it’s worth every darn nickel and dime we spend on it.
Source & Photo Credit: http://www.nasa.gov