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The Dark Side of the Sun

presented by Prof. Frederick M. Walter, Dept. of Astronomy, Stony Brook University

7:00 PM Thursday, April 27, 2017
Southampton Cultural Center
25 Pond Lane, Southampton, NY 11968


The Sun, a perfectly ordinary middle-aged intermediate mass star, is absolutely critical for life as we know it on Earth. Essentially all the energy we, and all life, has to work with comes from the Sun. Nothing the Sun has done in the past 4 billion years has wiped out life on Earth. But today human beings are advancing in new ways that bring us into direct conflict with less-appreciated aspects of Solar behavior.

Solar magnetic activity causes sunspots and heats the chromosphere and corona. Recombining magnetic fields cause solar flares, solar proton events, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These reach the Earth, causing the spectacle of the aurorae (the Northern and Southern Lights). More recently, these phenomena have endangered astronauts and destroyed satellites. CMEs play havoc with the power grid, and there is an uncomfortably-high probability that in the near future a large CME will bring down the North American power grid, with catastrophic consequences.

Pro. Walter will review the spectacle of Solar magnetic activity, and lay out the case that modern civilization is inadequately prepared for these new threats.

Frederick M. Walter has been a Professor of Astronomy at Stony Brook University since 1989. His fields of research include star birth, stellar weather, and star death using the CHANDRA and XMM-NEWTON X-ray Observatories, the Hubble Space Telescope, and telescopes in Arizona, Hawaii and Chile.

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