Saturday, July 26, 2014


Point Of View Oil on linen 90 x 100cm 2014
I read an article about a near miss.
A potentially Earth/humanity shattering event in 2012 that was fortunately...a near miss.
But, this event could happen again...and be a close more destructive encounter.
The article Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012 is from NASA'S Science News. It recounts that in 2012 there was a solar storm, a rather large one. The biggest for 150 years. The previous one was in 1859. Here's what the author of the article, Dr. Tony Phillips says about the 1859 event, Before July 2012, when researchers talked about extreme solar storms their touchstone was the iconic Carrington Event of Sept. 1859, named after English astronomer Richard Carrington who actually saw the instigating flare with his own eyes.  In the days that followed his observation, a series of powerful CMEs hit Earth head-on with a potency not felt before or since.  Intense geomagnetic storms ignited Northern Lights as far south as Cuba and caused global telegraph lines to spark, setting fire to some telegraph offices and thus disabling the 'Victorian Internet." 
Note: A CME is a coronal mass ejection - huge bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines that are ejected from the Sun over the course of several hours. 2012 the storm tore through our orbit and luckily we missed being hit... by one week.
But, scientists have garnered a massive amount of knowledge because the storm hit one of our spacecraft, a solar observatory called STEREO-A. This observatory survived the storm because it's equipped to survive such things. Plus, in open space the ambient magnetic field is weaker than the field within Earth's magnetosphere [the region surrounding a planet where the planet's magnetic field dominates]. This means that electric currents are not as strongly generated/ignited in outer space as they can be within Earth's more dense sphere.
So...what's the likelihood of Earth being hit by a solar storm-within the next 10 years? Well, scientists have worked out that it's up to 12% chance. Now, that's quite high, particularly because the devastation would be so widespread and catastrophic.
So, what would happen if we got hit?
Unlike the mid nineteenth, we 21st century sophisticated types, are totally reliant on technology, electricity et widespread fire and brimstone it would be. And, what kind of warning would we have that a massive bubble of gas threaded with magnetic field lines was heading our way? Not much! Maybe hours. The trick is to unplug your devices in time! Yes, well...probably not as simple as that! Think of what would happen to GPS systems controlling planes and ships; hospitals, internet, banking, the lacework of electronic connections across the globe...and into space...and more.
Dr. Daniel Baker, from the University of Colorado's Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics, is quoted at the end of the NASA article:
"we need to be prepared."
It got me thinking about perspective. Regular readers will know this is a favourite topic of mine.
Here we have an instance of scientific research providing us with information that is truly cosmic in perspective. The whole Earth will be affected by a solar storm, if it hits us. We are more vulnerable than our nineteenth century ancestors, because of our reliance on technology and the ubiquity of it. 

Today, war and conflict rage in various parts of the world. We fight each other, rather than working together!
If we take a cosmic perspective, war and conflict seem even more gut wrenchingly needless. After all, we could ALL be wiped out by the effects of massive rolling bubbles of gas threaded with magnetic field lines. But, rather than working together to ensure science can protect us, we fight, threaten, abuse, destroy. We fight over land, territory. We fight in the name of religion. We terrorise, disrupt, withhold and destroy. Points of view become entrenched and intractable.
Yet, we ALL share the planet! Earth is OUR home. So, rather than fight over bits of it, let's work together for all of it, whether we actually get hit by a solar storm or not!
So, to my painting Point Of View. It's cosmic for sure! But, is the black circle sinister or not? Depends on points of view! For me, the black circle could be many things:
  • Symbolic of what we don't yet know. How exciting.
  • An entrance to another world, maybe another Universe in the Multiverse.
  • Indicative of having been somewhere else. Possibly a transformative passage?
  • Maybe representative of Earth, no longer in existence-a reminder.
  • A shadow, eclipse.
  • A promise
  • A black hole

or simply
  • A pinhole in a piece of coloured paper!
It does not really matter what the black circle is. But, if it gets you thinking about perspective, then I'm happy.

Reading the NASA article about solar storms and the University of Colorado's Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics reminded me of my cousin Dr. Bill [aka Fred] From. He died in 1983 aged 27 on Mt Everest. He had just completed his PhD in Physics at the University of Queensland and had won a scholarship to study at one of the Max Planck Institutes in Germany. His research centered on studying the ionosphere which is one of the layers of Earth's upper atmosphere...along with the magnetosphere. Here's a link from MIT to a short description of the interactions between the ionosphere and the magnetosphere.

In 2009 I painted Halo. I was thinking about the atmosphere as being like a halo around the Earth. This halo protects us and enables the conditions for life. Click HERE to read my post Halo, where I also mention my cousin Bill.

Halo oil on linen 80 x 180 cm 2009



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