THINKING ABOUT SOLAR ENERGY
The sun made the news recently when there was a solar eclipse – science has helped us understand that we do not need to fear the darkening of the sun as did people of long ago did. The sun is so much a part of our daily lives we seldom give it much thought until we are planning an outdoor activity. Really thinking about the sun’s energy reveals many hidden benefits, Keith Blackmore reminds readers in a recent article in the Northwest Illinois Audubon Society (NWIL Audubon) June-July Newsletter. He reports on two dozen or more thoughts from readers about how energy from the sun works for us without our help. What can you detect that solar energy does?
We are very familiar with the sun as we experience its energy in our everyday lives. We know that the energy can hurt our eyes if we look directly at the sun. Wherever we live, the pattern of day and night governs our lives. Sunlight makes us feel good.
The science of astronomy and solar and astrophysics, using solar telescopes and scientific measuring instruments can teach us much more about the sun and its energy.
- “The sun is made up of plasma…which forms when atoms are stripped down to naked protons and electrons…a splendid conductor of electricity.”
- “The sun is packed with magnetic fields…[and} some as thick as the earth is wide, emerge on the surface as sunspots.”[The source of electromagnetic storms that produce the aurora borealis and have produced superstorms that interfered with communications on earth.]
- “The sun’s core…fuses 700 million tons of protons into helium nuclei every second, releasing the energy of ten billion hydrogen bombs in the process.”
- “Matter is so tightly packed…that it takes more than 100,000 years for the photons to emerge… 70 percent of the way out of the solar center. After a month or so more, the photons emerge into the photosphere, the part of the sun that we see.”
- “Iit takes a mere eight minutes for them to reach Earth as sunlight.” [radiant energy)]
Timothy Ferris, National Geographic, June 2012, [pictures and more at nationalgeographicmgazine.com/magazines.]
Science and technology are revealing new ways to harness the abundance of solar energy that reaches earth. Blackmore concludes. “A truly creative culture should be able to replace the smidgen of energy from fossil fuels which is destroying civilization. Let’s really think about that one.”
Audubon is about more than birds. A description of their many local activities is on the website (nwilaudubon.org) under ‘calendar of events’ and the bi-monthly newsletter can be found under ‘news’. The public is welcome to all chapter activities.
Support efforts to replace fossil fuel with solar energy to preserve a healthy environment for generations to come.
Della Moen, Earth Team Volunteer, NRCS/Stephenson Soil and Water Conservation District, an equal opportunity provider and employer, 05/30/12 (for publication on 06/02/12 in the Journal- Standard, Freeport, Illinois) Della can be reached at email@example.com