Northern Lights Energy Source

From :

Scientists think they have discovered the energy source of the spectacular color displays seen in the northern lights. New data from NASA’s Themis mission, a quintet of satellites launched this winter, found the energy comes from a stream of charged particles from the sun flowing like a current through twisted bundles of magnetic fields connecting Earth’s upper atmosphere to the sun.

The energy is then abruptly released in the form of a shimmering display of lights visible in the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, said principal investigator Vassilis Angelopoulos of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Results were presented Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting.

In March, the satellites detected a burst of northern lights, or auroras borealis, over Alaska and Canada. During the two-hour light show, the satellites measured particle flow and magnetic fields from space.

The Earth’s magnetic field is a wonderous item to behold indeed. Without it, solar flares, charged particles and other rather nasty pieces from the Sun would have stripped the Earth bare of any vestige of life from the surface and even the oceans.

Many space scientists speculate this is why Mars is so devoid of life, water and oxygen. Since it lacks a magnetic field of any consequence, the radiation from solar flares over the millenia have stripped the planet bare of any signs of water and life.

Theories about how planetary magnetic fields usually center around a planet’s liquid metal core, seizmic activity and plate tectonics, something that Mars seems to lack at the moment.

That’s why many planetary scientists are hopeful to find primitive life (and water) under the surface of Mars, they’re hoping extremophile life buried itself along with the water to escape from the solar radiation.

It sounds good in theory. Hopefully future planetary explorations will turn it into fact.

And thank whatever deity of your choice of the gift of our generous magnetic field!

Original Article

Life and magnetic fields

Hat tip to Mirthy!

16 responses

  1. Sometimes one can see the Northern Lights from where I live in NY. Looking north-west generally and not in the same glory as Canada and Alaska of course.

    Beautiful none-the-less!

  2. Hi dad2059 et. al. …

    This article totally stuns me, because they’ve known for quite some time where the source of the energy for energizing the aurora originated; ie., the solar wind striking the earths magnetosphere. So to me this is like rediscovering the effects of magnetism and electricity, publishing a paper and taking credit for previously discovered/understood phenomena. I’ll provide two links that provide support to my argument. Possibly they are getting credit for further refinement of the knowledge base explaining this phenomena etc.'s_magnetic_field

    Carl Nemo **==

  3. On the same wavelength
    … so to speak

  4. Carl: I think this is what is meant; “The satellites have found evidence of magnetic ropes connecting Earth’s upper atmosphere directly to the sun. We believe that solar wind particles flow in along these ropes, providing energy for geomagnetic storms and auroras.” David Sibeck, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    They’ve discovered our atmosphere and the Sun’s are actually linked.

    Yeah, I thought the same thing. I should’ve made it clearer. Here’s the link:

    Q9: Thanks for coming by Doc! It’s always great when you show up!

    Actually I can’t take credit for it, Mirthy of Liberally Mirth slipped the link to me this morning. I would’ve done something weirder probably! LOL! 😎

  5. Did you see the Science channel last night and the program about what is fueling the renewed interest in returning to the moon?

    An energy source called Helium 3.

    I don’t recall the exact details but, the program said this Helium 3 on the moon is sufficient to provide fuel for earth for centuries.

    There are myriad unanswered questions about mining on the moon.

    Such as the ethical question of what nation has the right to set-up shop on the moon, as well as what would be the environmental implications for the moon and its ability to orbit the earth if large pieces are removed and brought back to earth.

    Interesting stuff.

  6. Chris: The whole surface of the Moon is covered with Helium-3, or deuterium due to constant solar barrage for 4 billion years. This is because it has no atmosphere or magnetic field to protect it.

    As far as I’m aware of, no nation can claim any part of Luna, but individuals and corporations can. You’d have to Google it to check for sure.

    Raping other lands for resources has been our MO since 10,000 B.C. and it shows no sign of change yet. With over 6.5 billion people and a hue and cry over carbon, H-3 might be the main resource to carry us into the Solar System and lift the rest of humankind out of the shit.

  7. Hi dad2059…

    Thanks for the clarification with the supplied link etc. I’ve been away most of the day, but after reading about the magnetic roping effect meaning a far greater coupling effect to the sun then aforeimagined it would also confirm the theory that sun is responsible for causing the reversal of the earths magnetic poles over great periods of time.

    The sun evidently hiccups every so often with monstrous solar flares that must have the ability to not only reverse, but to virtually imprint and remagnetize crustal rock in the opposite direction with the reversal taking thousands of years to decay. Again this is just theory on my part, but this close coupling to the sun means in addition to the heat, light, and radiation it provides it also determines the ultimate polarity of our magnetic poles rather than anomalies in the earths crust etc. I ran across a fun link that’s truly informative and will allow most folks to become subject matter expert on the earths magnetic fields in short order.

    Carl Nemo **==

  8. Dad, I knew this story would grab you. :>
    And I also knew that what you wrote about it in the post and what you and your readers wrote about it on this thread would help me to understand it better.
    The link between our atmosphere and that of the sun…even for a science dummy like me is way interesting!

  9. Hi dad2059…

    In the interest of accuracy I must mention that Helium 3 the stable isotope of Helium and Deuterium the stable isotope of Hydrogen are two different animals. Helium 3 is a non-radioactive isotope of helium and deuterium the same for hydrogen. Deuterium is found naturally throughout the oceans and when combined with H2O forms Deuterium oxide which is used for neutron moderation in heavy water breeder reactors.

    The hope for helium 3 is that if it used as a moderator or fuel it will give off a lesser amount of active neutrons that have a tendency contaminate encasements and internal reactor components etc. The downside of helium 3 is that it isn’t readily available and scooping it from the moons tenuous atmosphere is pretty much a lala land thought experiment. As of now it’s created as a function of tritium decay and is generally scoured up from the dismantling of nuclear weapons where it accumulates. Supposedly about 150 kgs of He 3 have accumulated from these stored weapons since the beginning tritium production in 1955.
    The following is an extract from Wiki explaining the downside of He3’s use in reactor for power generation and the large amounts necessary for energy production.

    “The amounts of helium-3 needed as a replacement for conventional fuels should not be underestimated. The total amount of energy produced in the ³He + 21H+ reaction is 18.4 MeV, which corresponds to some 493 megawatt-hours (4.93×108 Wh) per three grams (one mole) of ³He. Even if that total amount of energy could be converted to electrical power with 100% efficiency (a physical impossibility), it would correspond to about 30 minutes of output of a thousand-megawatt electrical plant; a year’s production by the same plant would require some [17.5 kilograms] of helium-3.” note: my brackets around the amount of He3 necessary for one years worth of energy production.

    The process of synthetically creating He3 requires a high neutron density environment which is self-defeating in the dream of both creating He3 and also using He3 as a source of energy.

    I still say super large solar farms are the way to go and the most efficient. The daily US consumption of electrical energy is nominally 880 gigawatts. Let’s round it up to one terawatt. This amount of power could easily be generated in an area of about 225 square miles or about 15 miles on a side. Of course we wouldn’t want to have all our eggs in one basket, so smaller solar energy farms could be built throughout the west on barren lands that have little developmental useage. Vast holdings of Western lands are under the control of the federal government so land acquisition for “we the people” who own these lands would be no problem.

    We need to move out on this solar project now and throttle back on nuclear energy production whether it’s conventional fission of the dream source of fusion power. There’s just too many negative issues associated with nuclear power generation. Direct from the sun to us is the way to go…!

    Carl Nemo **==

  10. Hi dad2059 et. al. …

    I’m continually promoting energy production via PV’s (photovoltaic cells). I thought I’d supply an interesting link showing a world map where these solar farms could be placed as represented by the dots on the map. Just these few areas developed with large arrays of PV’s could produce the “entire” worlds energy needs…!

    No need for coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear nor any other scheme. By the time the sun dies we’ll have either left earth to other sytsems or simply perish from the heat as the sun expands from the early stages of it’s decline, then to nova, to white dwarf.

    The map references PV’s of only 8 percent efficiency. As of now PV’s are operating at 18 percent and 20 percent is projected by 2010. Once nanotech production begins of the cells; efficiencies might climb to the 90 percent level or more…!

    Carl Nemo **==

  11. scooping it from the moons tenuous atmosphere is pretty much a lala land thought experiment.

    I’m not an expert on Helium 3 but, the Science channel said it is found in lunar rocks. They didn’t say anything about “atmosphere” as the source.

    In fact, the USA gave away (according to the program) lunar rocks to friendly nations as a gesture of peace (can you imagine Bush so extending his hand?) and the rocks have vanished into the black market, allegedly reaching nations like Japan, China and Russia, interested in Helium 3 as a power source.

  12. I’ll concede the H3 and deuterium Carl, you’re right about that, I should’ve studied that more. But Chris is right too, Luna has no measrable atmosphere of any type. I think you meant the lunar regolith, meaning the surface.

    And Chris also made a good point about the lunar rocks and the present race to the Moon (even though the nations deny it) with H3 being the prize.

    I think the Russians might make it back before everyone else (2012), but I’ll check on it.

    Mirthy: Hi and thanks! 🙂

  13. Arctic summers may be “ice-free” by 2013.

    We need to stop the destruction of the environment and find alternative energy sources quickly.

  14. I’m reading the book Red Moon now. In it, the whole world is engulfed in heat by 2019. China and the Middle East which is all run by Islamic ayatollahs have signed a treaty and cut off oil to the West. America, Russia and alot of Western countries finance this mission back to the moon to find a “Mother-lode” of cometary water near the Lunar South Pole.

    Good read so far. Alot of subplots though.

  15. Hi dad2059…

    My apologies for the mistake concerning the moons atmosphere. It was late and I had downed one too many pints of Fosters Bitters.
    If I’m going to write, lengthy, heady articles, I best keep my head clear.

    Rest assured I know the moon has no atmosphere, but why I gave it one is beyond me. Sounds like a good idea though…no?! :))

    Yes, the He3 is concentrated in the outer layere of crustal rocks on the moon known as the “regolith”. In fact this was mentioned in the Wiki He3 link I supplied with post #10.

    Carl Nemo **==

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