April 20, 2013 12:14 am

This Sunday’s Classic Episode: Revolving Around the Sun

Sunspots on the Sun, taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory

Rapidly growing sunspots observed by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory Feb 19-20, 2013. Image Credit: NASA/SDO/AIA/HMI/Goddard Space Flight Center.

This Sunday, we’re revisiting a classic episode of StarTalk Radio, Revolving Around the Sun. And if you’ve never heard it before, you’re in for an illuminating episode about our favorite ball of plasma, Sol.

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and comic co-host Chuck Nice are joined in their solar sojourn by Steve Keil, director of the National Solar Observatory, and Judith Lean, a solar scientist in the Space Science Division of the Naval Research Laboratory. Bill Nye the Science Guy even drops by to discuss the shadow of the Sun and the work of the ancient astronomer Ptolemy.

You’ll dive into the core of the Sun to explore its magnetic fields, the causes of sunspots and solar storms, solar faculae and solar plage, solar maximums and solar minimums, and the movement of the Sun through the galaxy. You’ll learn about plasma, the fourth state of matter (and, as Chuck points out, an important part of many flat screen televisions). You’ll even look at the Sun from an entirely different perspective: ultra-violet.

Back on Earth, you’ll find out why the U.S. Navy is the biggest user of space, and why the Sun is the driver of their “extended operational environment.” From Stonehenge to Manhattanhenge, mini-ice ages to global warming, and sundials to geo-engineered solar umbrellas designed to block photons, it’s a journey of discovery into a subject that we see every day but are just beginning to really understand.

In fact, you don’t need to wait until Sunday night to satisfy your solar curiosity. You can listen right now.

That’s it for now. Keep Looking Up!

–Jeffrey Simons

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