Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy
Send Your Name To Mars
Would you like to go to Mars? Obviously not you in person, but you can be represented if you send your name along on the next JPL mission, planned for 2011. The form to fill out is here: Send Your Name to Mars and all you have to do is fill in your name, your country and postcode (or area). There's also the option to inform your friends and invite them along for the ride. You will be given a certificate number (mine is N2M400167026) and you can print out a certificate if you wish. Click the green "Participation Map" button after you've signed up and you'll see whereabouts in the world all your fellow pioneers reside. When I signed up there were 167,031 worldwide participants, with the USA in a runaway lead and Great Britain were in 8th position. Perhaps my readers can swell the totals somewhat? When you see the next Mars Rover ambling along on the red planet's surface, you can feel pretty smug that you're a part of the journey with your microchipped name on board. I know I will! Thanks very much to Researcher Toy Box for bringing this opportunity to my attention!
The Quiet Sun
The solar activity cycle lasts approximately 11 years. The year 2008 had the lowest sunspot count since the 1950s, at a time when it's supposed to be 'hotting up'. Sunspot activity is at its lowest for about a hundred years, solar wind pressure is at a record low, radio emissions are the lowest they've been in over 50 years, there are less solar flares than normal, and solar experts don't know why the Sun is so 'quiet'! Now well into Solar Cycle 24, the Sun will reach peak activity in May 2013 but this year 2009 has shown no signs of sunspot activity increasing.
As there are no explanations forthcoming from the solar experts, my own personal thoughts (and I hasten to add I am no expert) are that I am hoping this isn't the "lull before the storm" – where the next solar cycle will be the highest on record, because that could be bad news for us all: remember the space weather storm (a coronal mass ejection – CME) which caused the HydroQuebec power blackout 20 years ago? Such phenomena not only disrupt electrical activity on the Earth (including planes in flight) but would also cause problems for orbiting satellites, the ISS and any astronauts in space at the time.
May I remind you that it is extremely dangerous to look at the Sun, you could burn your retina and be struck blind.
Chat about your celestial observances at the H2G2 Astronomy Society. Comment on anything in this edition of Babe Among the Stars by starting a new conversation below.