Beware of Starstuff
Stars can be dangerous. They spew out deadly particles, unless you are protected from them in a safety bubble – like Earth has. The Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere only let in the life-giving part of sunlight. Studies of other stars, and our own moon, show that things could be far worse.
- Record flare: A little star 16 light-years away in Lacerta just went whoosh! On April 25, it “unleashed what is considered the brightest burst of light ever seen in the universe from a normal star,” reported Space.com. If that is normal, be glad our sun is abnormal (see 03/07/2007). A NASA scientist said, “Flares like this would deplete the atmospheres of life-bearing planets, sterilizing their surfaces.” Science Daily called this star “the mouse that roared.” For an artist conception of a planet near a roaring star, see Astronomy Picture of the Day for 5/21/2008.
- Electric dust: Future moon astronauts will have new challenges only briefly experienced by the Apollo crews. NASA Science reported that the moon flies through Earth’s magnetotail once a month. That’s a stream of charged particles from the sun that flows around Earth’s magnetic field and hits the full moon. The Apollo astronauts never felt the full brunt of this stream.
Physicists believe that electrons from the sun can charge moon dust and make it levitate above the surface. Not only that, it can start moving from one hemisphere to the other in a kind of lunar wind, depending on charge differences. The Apollo astronauts learned a little about the hazards of moon dust. It scratched visors, got into everything, stuck like glue and smelled like gunpowder. Future astronauts living through magnetotail crossings may get the full brunt of hazards that electrified dust will throw at them.
Question: if dust like this has been dancing around the moon for billions of years, would it alter the appearance of lunar features?
Our waterful, airful world is such a blessing, we often take it for granted. Skeptics can argue all they want that if it weren’t this way we wouldn’t be here arguing about it. Don’t be such an ingrate. Thank God for that blue sky with its ozone and magnetic shield. It’s not just a necessity for survival; it’s a blessing that didn’t have to be.