For Richard Carrington, September 1, 1859, began the same way that most of his days did. The amateur astronomer pointed his telescope at the Sun and began to make notes of his observations on the changing spots of the Sun’s surface. Unexpectedly, “two patches of intensely bright and white light broke out” according to Carrington’s quickly recorded observations. The lights were as bright as direct sunlight and only lasted for a few minutes before quickly fading away.

That evening, the impacts of these flashes were felt around the world. The newly established telegraph system began experiencing mysterious outages as sparks…

In the years since it first provided images of the Sun in the spring of 2010, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory has had virtually unbroken coverage of the Sun. This image is a composite of 25 separate images spanning the period of April 16, 2012, to April 15, 2013. Credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO

Unlike a campfire, which burns using a process called chemical combustion, the Sun generates energy through a process called nuclear fusion. Much to the chagrin of any pyrophiliacs out there, this means that the Sun is not actually on fire. As a result, it would be an insurmountable challenge to attempt to extinguish the Sun with a bucket of water.

Through nuclear fusion, the Sun produces energy in its core, which is then released in the forms of light and heat. The core of the Sun has such extreme pressure and temperature that individual atoms of hydrogen are forced together…

Artist rendition of the Parker Solar Probe. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The flight of Icarus is one of the most infamous tales in Greek mythology. In it, Daedalus and his overly-proud son Icarus are imprisoned on the Greek island of Crete. Ever the master craftsman, Daedalus constructed two sets of wings made of wax so that he and Icarus could escape the island prison. However, Icarus ignored his father’s warnings not to fly too close to the Sun and he tumbled into the sea as his wings melted.

Although a lesson in the dangers of hubris, the tale of Icarus illustrates the ancient desire within humans to know more about the…

Vicky Woodburn

A Space-Based Storyteller Stuck on Earth (for now)

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