90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Mysteries Of The Sun

Jacki Lyden in for Tom Ashbrook

This hot summer, we’ll look into the heart of the star that brings us all life. The science and mystery of the Sun.

This image provided by NASA shows a solar flare just as sunspot 1105 was turning away from Earth on Sept. 8, 2010 the active region erupted, producing a solar flare and a fantastic prominence. The eruption also hurled a bright coronal mass ejection into space.  (AP)

This image provided by NASA shows a solar flare just as sunspot 1105 was turning away from Earth on Sept. 8, 2010 the active region erupted, producing a solar flare and a fantastic prominence. The eruption also hurled a bright coronal mass ejection into space. (AP)

Oh, yon flaming orb. Every day, Helios’s chariot carries you across the sky.

Well, perhaps not: but the 27 million degree star that rules our every waking hour actually has a beating heart. Well, a pulse.

Anyway,  it also generates a kajillion fascinating facts — did you know you get more Vitamin D from ten minutes in the sun than 200 glasses of milk?

We explore stories of the star, its eclipses, storms, shelf-life and why somewhere over the rainbow, it’s way up high.

This hour On Point: Here Comes the Sun.

-Jacki Lyden

Guests:

Bob Berman, author of The Sun’s Heartbeat: and Other Stories from the Life of the Star that Powers Our Planet. He’s also a columnist for Astronomy magazine and science editor of the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Madhulika Guhathakurta, NASA astrophysicist, and an expert on heliophysics and space weather. She’s lead scientist for NASA’s “Living With a Star” initiative, which focuses on understanding the effects of solar variability on technology and human life.

This hour, we’ll hear:

“Here Comes The Sun” by the Beatles
“Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone” by Bill Withers
“Higher Than The Sun” by Primal Scream

The Sun blows out another big flare


Excerpt from The Sun’s Heartbeat: and Other Stories from the Life of the Star that Powers Our Planet:

Introduction:

Then, since 2000, what had previously been a trickle of new Sun discoveries became a flood. And a flotilla of six amazing solar-dedicated spacecraft was almost routinely providing revelations.

How many of our friends know that there’s a “sun inside the sun”? Or that a bizarre, newly found zone beneath the solar surface, the tachocline, is solely responsible for its violence? Or that we just experienced  the oddest solar cycle in over 200  years – which has apparently stopped global warming in its tracks? Or the scary stuff, like an all-star government panel that urgently warned that a particular kind of solar storm could effectively destroy our power grid at any time, with repairs to the tune of one to two trillion dollars?

Is it really mostly the Sun’s changing brightness – and not human activity – that’s altering our temperature? Is my own Old Farmers Almanac correct in predicting, ostensibly using scientific reasoning, that a global cooling is in the cards?

How can we create a valid public policy regarding climate change if the culprit is not ourselves but the nearest star? Or are such arguments mere rationalizations and cop-outs, a fog created by a deliberate or ignorant misreading of today’s cutting-edge solar science? And what about the medical advice to cover our skin when we venture out – has this drained our blood of its vital cancer-fighting vitamin D? And what should we make of the Sun’s eternal hand-to-hand combat with our world’s magnetic field; its complete power over our solar system and satellites; the billions of particles it powers through our brains?

It’s time to find out.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Mar 31, 2015
Some of the hundreds of people who gathered outside the Indiana Statehouse on Saturday, March 28, 2015, for a rally against legislation signed Thursday by Gov. Mike Pence stand on the Statehouse's south steps during the 2-hour-long rally. (AP)

Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Critics call it anti-gay. Business leaders say bad for the economy. The governor’s not backing down. We’ll dive in.

Mar 31, 2015
Jazz icon Billie Holiday performs in New York City's Club Downbeat in February 1947.  (Library of Congress / Creative Commons)

A meditation on the life and music of Billie Holiday. The lady who sang the blues.

RECENT
SHOWS
Mar 30, 2015
Sweet Briar College, an all-women's liberal arts college in Virginia, announced in early 2015 that it would unexpectedly close its doors at the end of the school year. (Courtesy Sweet Brian College)

Fareed Zakaria weighs the value of a liberal arts education in our technology-driven time.

 
Mar 30, 2015
A stele and flowers laid in memory of the victims are placed in the area where the Germanwings jetliner crashed in the French Alps, in Le Vernet, France, Friday, March 27, 2015. The crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 into an Alpine mountain, which killed all 150 people aboard, has raised questions about the mental state of the co-pilot. (AP)

The pilot who crashed his plane in the Alps. What we know now. And what to do about pilots’ psychological health.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: March 27, 2015
Friday, Mar 27, 2015

More on the incessant email debate, plus some goats living their best lives and the sad allure of Manhattan’s shuttered Pommes Frites.

More »
1 Comment
 
Mobile Payments Offer Convenience If You Keep Your Email Safe
Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

Thinking about moving your wallet to your phone? You can! And maybe you should? But TechCrunch senior writer Josh Constine has a few things to tell you before you do.

More »
1 Comment
 
Using Technology To Get Your Kids Outside
Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

The latest and greatest — using apps to make natural exploration more fun for your kids.

More »
Comment