solar activity, our place in the universe


Video courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Here is the caption originally released with this video file:

Magnetic arcs of plasma that spiraled above two active regions held their shape fairly well over 18 hours (Jan. 11-12, 2017). The charged plasma is being controlled [by] the magnetic field lines of the active regions. The field lines become clearly visible when viewed in this wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. Often the arches bend and twist more dynamically than the relatively stable ones seen here.

This blog post is not necessarily just a reflection on complexities or interconnections, but also, in part, an astonished expression of admiration for what our species has accomplished, not just our ability to travel to the moon and back and to launch interplanetary probes or set up highly sensitive observation platforms and instruments in space, but also to manipulate the spectra and other detectable phenomena, to translate them into meaningful inputs for the human senses. In this way, we can “see” solar activity and, in so doing, we have the potential to come to an ever-greater understand of the universe around us.

I’m truly astonished about this amazing capacity of the human brain — it is definitely the brain that continually drives human achievement! — and, at the same time, I can’t but help but echo a scientist and thinker whose work increasingly shapes my own understanding of our universe and the place of Homo sapiens sapiens within it.

“If there is danger in the human trajectory, it is not so much in the survival of our own species as in the fulfillment of the ultimate irony of organic evolution: that in the instant of achieving self-understanding through the mind of man, life has doomed its most beautiful creations.” Edward O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life (Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992): 344.


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