It Was a Sunny Day: Our Love/Hate Affair With the Sun

Mankind's relationship with the sun is a stormy one.


"The universe is not required to be

in perfect harmony with human ambition."

Carl Sagan


"The space-weather forecast for the next few years: solar storms, with a chance of catastrophic blackouts on Earth." (National Geographic, June 2012)

In September 1859, an amateur astronomer in London, Richard Carrington, while observing an image of the sun on a screen, was blinded by "two patches of intensely bright and white light" (National Geographic, p42, 2012).

This flare was the largest solar superstorm ever recorded causing displays of the Aurora Borealis as far south as Hawaii.  It sent billions of tons of charged particles toward Earth colliding with its magnetic field.  This sent a surge of electrical currents through the telegraph wires shutting down most service. 

Ironically some telegraph stations cut battery power and were able to resume communication more clearly and powerfully with the current from the Aurora. 

In March of 1989, a similar yet less powerful storm (about 1/3 that of the event in 1859) knocked out a power grid in Quebec serving approximately six million customers.  It has been theorized that a super storm the size of the London explosion would fry more transformers than replacements available basically shutting down the electrical system of our planet with a possibility of a decade for recovery.

Imagine the havoc that would ensue with no refrigeration for food or medication, little global communication, and no system to supply potable water.  An alarming scenario inflicted by the friendly "star" on which we rely for survival.  We are now in a similar turbulent solar cycle that is expected to last through 2013.

This is not meant to be a doomsday warning. It is simply a message of our capricious existence with that beautiful orb upon which we gaze lovingly each sunrise.

Our sun is probably the most familiar celestial object with which humans have a daily love/hate affair.  Throughout man's presence on Earth the sun has been worshipped (and remains so in some cultures) as the supreme, all powerful deity.  Early humans were cast into anxiety each night when this sphere of light and warmth seemed to fall off the edge of the sky only to be overjoyed each morning when it reappeared. With the eventual realization that this was a permanent event, we focused on other needs for survival, food and water.

Now that we have scientifically explained our sun's daily routine we take this mostly peaceful coexistence for granted. I am always overjoyed every morning when I first step into its .  The environment always feels more comforting in its presence.  Colors are brighter and deeper.  The air feels cleaner, even the wind feels more refreshing under the protection of that beam emanating from the sphere in the sky.  Sunrise and sunset are almost exotic when the sun isn't hidden behind clouds.

I also find the sun endearing when I remember that its rays aren't just light and warmth.  These streams of light from our star are packed with energy. They feed the plants and warm the soil and water.  We have also learned to transform the heat energy from the sun into electricity without which we could not have the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.  Even the fossil fuels, upon which we have become overly dependent, were produced a millennium ago by the sun's energy.

One of my greatest pleasures when , a meadow, or is to study an individual beam.

Notice how it reflects off the body of water and notice the different reflections and refractions between water stilled with no breeze or the ripple caused by a fish surfacing.  See it leap off the crest of a wave or the back of a dolphin as it soars above the ocean's surface.

Have you ever experienced a beam of sunlight suddenly exploding through a narrow opening in a sky filled with dark grey thunderheads thrusting a sliver of joy and relief from the oncoming storms?  Ironically, it is the heat and energy from the sun that produced those dangerous storms.

I believe the sun keeps us honest with its creation of hurricanes and tornadoes.  It doesn't let us grow too comfortable by bringing us drought or deluge when we forget that we humans are simply another part of life on the planet.  The sun comforts us and humbles us when we need to be soothed.

Scientists often speak of getting control of our environment and weather, harnessing the sun's energy and weakening weather systems with chemicals as if we were staving off an illness with medication.  Then that energy from our friend will humble us through an earthquake or volcanic eruption or a solar superstorm.

We talk of Mother Earth and Mother Nature our supposed life lines.  Yet our true "mother", who gave birth to planet Earth and our solar system, is "Mother Sun".  She is our true origin and we need to respect her and accept what she offers us.  Don't be cross with her after she shakes our planet form the heat she has planted within Earth's center.  She is not punishing us.  She is not vindictive. She is only letting us know who is in charge and that she will continue to light the sky long after we are gone.

So, get up, go outside, cherish every shadow she gives us, every color and tint she shares for our eyes.  Welcome the warmth and energy with which she blesses us.  Use her love and caring wisely and simply enjoy her being there for us.


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