While I was at Comic Con – these things always seem to happen when I can’t get to the blog! – the huge sunspot cluster AR 1520 let loose with a powerful X1.4 class flare [Note: I originally had this as an X4 flare]. This magnetic blast released a huge wave of subatomic particles which screamed across space and slammed into the Earth’s magnetic field on Sunday night. These particles were then fed down into our atmosphere at high speed where they pinged at electrons in nitrogen molecules in the upper atmosphere. The molecules responded by glowing at very specific blue and red wavelengths, which to our eyes makes pink and purple. The result: gorgeous, gorgeous aurorae… like those seen by photographer Brad Goldpaint over Sparks Lake, Oregon:
Oh, my. That’s simply breathtaking. [Click to recombinate.]
X-class storms can damage satellites and cause some mischief on Earth like radio blackouts and power outages. Even if they were truly huge, though, they don’t do anything to us directly on the surface; our air protects us. And it does more than that: it puts on the greatest show on – and above – the Earth.
In the Related Posts links below I have thorough (and hopefully easy-to-understand) explanations of aurorae, and why they glow in these amazing and soul-stirring colors. I highly recommend you read them. Aurorae are a feast for the eyes and the brain as well; when you understand what makes them tick, your appreciation of them unfolds in an entirely new dimension.
Image credit: Brad Goldpaint, used with permission.
Oregon is famous for rainy weather, but that’s a tad unfair. Summers are clear, and if you head inland a ways the weather can be highly conducive for clear skies fairly often.
Oregon’s landscape is dramatic, too, and makes for a fine foreground if, say, you want to spend half a year compiling images to make a lovely time lapse video. Much like this one:
Did you see those weird and vaguely menacing clouds about 40 seconds in? Wow.
This video was made by Ben Canales, John Waller, Steve Engman, and Blake Johnson of Uncage the Soul Productions. I follow Ben on Google+, as I do a lot of other photographers — it makes my day a lot better to see amazing and beautiful pictures go by in the stream.
One of my favorite things to do while watching these time lapse videos of the night sky is to try to recognize constellations and individual stars. Orion is easy enough, but did you see Vega, Lyra, Delphinus, the Andromeda Galaxy? And did you notice how squashed the Sun looked as it rose, due to our atmosphere bending its light ?
I’ve only spent a short time in Oregon, but one day of that included Crater Lake, which was a place of profound and surpassing beauty. After watching this video, it makes me want to go back.
Tip o’ the lens cap to Ben Canales on Google+.
- Time lapse: Crater Lake
- Time lapse: IRIDIUM
- Well, at least light pollution makes for a pretty time lapse
- The stars above, the luminescence below
- The lines in the sky are stars
- Trailing the sky
[Note: I expect to hear some disagreement over my statements in this post. If you are going to comment, PLEASE read the whole post first, and then read my post "When belief kills" before leaving your comment. That should minimize misunderstanding about where I stand on this. Thank you.]
In February, I wrote that in Oregon a bill was being proposed to the state legislature that would remove the defense of religious belief in the case of homicide. Specifically, if the bill passes, parents who use faith healing instead of real medicine for their children can face murder or manslaughter charges if the child dies due to lack of medical care.
In March, the Oregon State House unanimously approved the bill. On Monday, the Senate approved it 25 – 5. It will now go back to the House for any changes to reconcile the versions. After that, it will be sent to the governor where he will sign it, and it will become state law.
This law would apply to anyone who does not seek medical care for their child, but the situation has become urgent of late because a fringe group called Followers of Christ advocates faith healing instead of real medicine, and several children have died or been seriously injured because of it.
I stated my opinion on this in my earlier post:
Stories like this always leave me conflicted. As a parent myself I always want the best possible medical treatment for my child, and I don’t want other groups interfering with that decision. However, the State has a right to protect the best interests of that child in case the parent cannot. Decades worth of evidence has shown that faith healing does not work, and in many cases the children in the Followers of Christ church had easily treatable illnesses and needn’t have died.
In the end, the right thing to do is save that sick child. If the parent cannot, then the greater society has the responsibility to do that.
I still think this is true. One of the very reasons we have a society in the first place is to be able to help people who cannot help themselves. Children fall squarely into that category. And we know faith healing is not a legitimate medical practice. For a serious illness, it is essentially a death sentence.
I support the Oregon legislature on this difficult decision. In these times of such stiff religious influence on government, this is a welcome sign of resistance.