A month ago, my daffodils began blooming, and I knew that spring was coming. Next week, it's official. On March 21 at 00 07 UT (universal time), the Earth spins through the vernal equinox. It's that special moment in our annual trek around the Sun that marks the beginning of spring. Seen from Earth, the Sun is crossing the celestial equator headed north. Here in the US, it's still March 20 at that moment, and so we're celebrating the first day of spring on March 20, and you're invited to celebrate "Sun-Earth Day."
- Video: Sun Storms
Each year, NASA sponsors Sun-Earth Day events that highlight our local star. This year, the theme is "Living in the Atmosphere of the Sun." We receive light and heat from the Sun. Virtually all energy on Earth can be traced back to the Sun. Nuclear power is the exception. Earth is a small planet, and is continually bathed in a sea of particles carried by the solar wind. When these charged particles spiral in at the poles, they electrify the sky with aurora. Larger storms threaten our satellites and even our ground-based electrical transmission systems. We live in the space weather that is governed by the Sun.
You can learn more about the space weather and the Sun by joining a NASA webcast. On March 20 (1 PM EST) representatives from NASA missions will share highlights from each of their missions and tell their interconnected space weather story, how space weather data is collected, and how scientists verify their results. They are:
...* George Doshenk (HINODE (Solar-B))
* Barbara Thompson (Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO))
* Terry Kucera (STEREO)
* Laura Peticolas- (THEMIS)
* Sten Odenwald (IMAGE) What we've learned from past science missions
* Janet Luhmann- (UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory) Space Weather
* Peter Smith- (University of Arizona) Space Weather Impact on Mars
- Video: Beneath a Sunspot
The webcast links will be announced through NASA's Sun-Earth Day events webpage.
The Sun-Earth Day team offers several resources for different age groups and interests. For the younger set, there are nice interactive online books about the Sun and about Auroras in both English and Spanish. For teachers, there are complete instructions for how to set up a Space Weather Action Center to get students involved in observing our nearest star. If you're a fan of podcasts, there's a nice series of aural tidbits about the Sun to enliven the daily commute. But, best of all are the images of the Sun. A Sun-Earth Viewer provides current images of the Sun from several satellites and ground-based observatories. The online tools allow you to zoom in on solar features and see them in comparison to the size of our small planet Earth. Check it out.
Personally, I'm ready for spring, and one of my favorite tunes from the Beatles. In the words of George Harrison, "Here comes the Sun....."
- Image Gallery: Sun Storms
- SPACE.com Cams: View Earth, Sun and aurora in real-time
- Uncharted Territory: New Glimpse of the Sun's South Pole
- Sun's Next Stormy Cycle Starts
- Anatomy of the Sun