Thursday, December 22, 2005

Shortest Day of the Year

Grr that it gets dark so early in the winter, but there's a period of time between 4pm and 5pm where the colors from the stores across the street really pop out. I imagine it must be a good time of day for the owners because they know they're about to close shop. It might be better for me if I had some aurora borealis to light up the darkness. Then again my pale skin would soak up all that UV cancerousness that the solar winds have to offer.

I didn't realize until recently that the polar aurora had anything to do with the Earth's magnetic field. Long story short, the sun is constantly blowing charged particles our way (solar wind) and the magnetic field protects us from that with the magnetic poles sucking some of that in, I think, hence aurora lights. So what's interesting is that every couple hundreds of thousands of years to millions of years (on average every 250,000 years) the magnetic poles reverse themselves...meaning your compass would point south to indicate north. Of course this doesn't just happen in a snap. It takes a gradual shift and our poles, are indeed, on the shift (the last shift is estimated at 780,000 years ago). Point being, it wouldn't be entirely crazy for me to wish for the aurora borealis to show up in Heidelberg. I won't live to see it if a patch of it comes this way (it's more likely to show up over London), but it's a cool thought.

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