Good morning and greetings, patchy fog and drizzle fans. Although the skies above Monterey Bay have been cloudier than my future with the State Department, thanks to the boys at NASA, I was able to check out an X-ray photo of the sun, (no, not Jason) last week that revealed plasma blasting off the its surface, which is known as a coronal mass ejection, or what bartenders refer to as a Corona Light. When these particles from the eruption reached Earth last Tuesday, they triggered a brilliant auroral display known as the Northern Lights and back to back episodes of “Rescue Me” and “Louie” on FX.
This story, which comes to us from Yahoo News, alerted me to the fact that skywatchers at high latitudes were in for a spectacular treat of the aurora borealis, which took center stage last Tuesday night. Like my warmup routine at my hatha yoga class, after a relatively quiet stretch, the sun appears to be ramping up its activity.
The sun’s surface erupted like George Steinbrenner last Sunday, blasting tons of plasma (ionized atoms and eves) into space, which is like milk being blown through a straw at 2.5 million miles an hour. These atoms headed towards Earth and created a stunning light show that folks hadn’t seen since Jimi Hendrix played the Fillmore East back in the 60′s. This spectacular solar activity was captured by photographers but not by yours truly, as it was way past my bedtime and I had an early wakeup call for a hand modeling shoot.
“This eruption was directed right at us and arrived here, along with A-Rod’s 600th home run, early in the day on August 4th,” said Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “It’s the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time and about damn time he broke out of that batting slump.”
The solar eruption was spotted by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which captures high-definition views of the sun at a variety of wavelengths along with studying why baseball doesn’t use instant replay. SDO was launched in February and peers deep into the layers of the sun, investigating the mysteries of its inner workings, much like my own psychoanalysis.
Views of aurorae are usually associated with Canada, Alaska and fans of Timothy Leary, but amateur astronomers and insomniacs in the northern U.S. states were told to look toward the north Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for rippling “curtains” of green and red light. And if any yellow light was spotted, observers were told to, if safe, prepare to stop short of the intersection.
When a coronal mass ejection reaches Earth, solar particles stream down our planet’s magnetic field lines toward the poles, urging us to vote. In the process, the particles collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, which then glow, creating an effect similar to miniature neon signs saying “open 24 hours” and “ATM machine inside.”
The interaction of the solar particles with our planet’s magnetic field creates geomagnetic storms, or disturbances in our planet’s magnetosphere, resulting in the creation of groups like the Tea Party or Mother Grizzlies. This latest blast sparked a storm that lasted for nearly 12 hours, enough time for auroras to spread all the way from Europe to North America. The auroras turned the sky purple, green, blue, and orange, which are the same colors I dream in after eating some Cherry Garcia right before I go to sleep.
The sun’s activity, like my training for Ironman Triathlon, usually ebbs and flows on a fairly predictable cycle. Typically, a cycle lasts about 11 years, a period of time when there are few sunspots, to peak at the solar maximum, during which sunspot activity is amplified while I focus on nutrition, hydration and making sure my living trust is up to date.
The last solar maximum occurred in 2001. The latest minimum, like the Bush years, was particularly weak, long-lasting and devastating to our nation. The most recent solar eruption is one of the first signs that the sun, and hopefully lawmakers in Washington, are waking up and heading toward another maximum, where hope and jobs are created and we can outsource that monetary stress that pervades our country right now.
So in honor of the solar tsunami that sports fans were treated to last week, today we are going back to the beginning. These photos feature the first sunrise I ever shot with a digital camera, back in early January of 2005. When I first saw the colors from this morning, I wondered if the computer had altered them as they were so unusual, or a George Costanza would say, “a pinkish hue.”
The reason for these unique colors is that I shot this series way before the sun rose. I took this as a good sign for Sunrise Santa Cruz as just a few days later I shot my all-time favorite sunrise (Orange Explosion) on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. But this morning, like the first time I laid eyes on my wife and being named to the Dean’s List at Syracuse, are moments that I carry very my close to my heart and kidneys.
Let’s go to the late night. “Happy birthday to President Obama. Republicans tried to block his birthday but they didn’t have enough votes, so it went through and the President was able to turn 49 today right on schedule.” –Jimmy Kimmel “Happy birthday to President Obama. If you want to get him a present, he’s registered at Bed, Bath, and Blame Bush.” –Jay Leno “President Obama is 49 years old today. He blew out all of his candles and wished for his old job back.” –David Letterman
“According to the National Enquirer, Bristol Palin has called of her engagement with Levi Johnston after finding out that he also got his ex-girlfriend Lanesia Garcia pregnant. Forget the oil spill, can someone put a cap on this guy.” –Jay Leno “Sarah Palin today said she has mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, she was never a big fan of Levi in the first place, but on the other hand, she had already shot the polar bear to make her daughter’s wedding dress.” –Jimmy Kimmel “President Obama announced his plan to remove all combat troops from Iraq by the end of August. So thank you to all the men and women serving in Iraq and ‘Good luck in Afghanistan!’” –Jimmy Fallon
So that’s our show. Birthday wishes go out to my EPA investigating cousin Geri Gilbert, who turns the big 50 today. And on Thursday it’s my old West Cliff pal Linda Krause, who never met a mango she didn’t like and doesn’t blame herself for the Celtic’s loss in game seven of the NBA Finals.
So be glad you’re not vacationing in Pakistan because heavy monsoon rains have created floods that are ravaging this nation-Osama Bin Laden hasn’t been on Facebook for days . And those wildfires raging in Russia are no day at the beach either, with the smoke causing the worst air pollution in that country’s history. So I guess I can live with a little coastal fog and beach volleyball.
So enjoy the last couple weeks of having the kids at home. And speaking of which, Jason was at Yankee Stadium last Wednesday when A-Rod hit his 600th homer. He didn’t catch the home run ball, but did manage to snag a Nathan’s Famous hot dog, a Johnny Rockets burger and a slice of Famiglia’s pizza. And that was just during batting practice. We’ll catch you behind the pitcher’s mound. Aloha, mahalo and later, Derek Jeter fans.