Our planet is constantly bathed in the winds coming off the blistering sphere at the centre of our Solar System. But even though the Sun itself is so ridiculously hot, once the solar winds reach Earth, they are hotter than they should be – and we might finally know why.
We know that particles making up the plasma of the Sun’s heliosphere cool as they spread out. The problem is that they seem to take their sweet time doing so, dropping in temperature far slower than models predict.
“People have been studying the solar wind since its discovery in 1959, but there are many important properties of this plasma which are still not well understood,” says physicist Stas Boldyrev from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
“Initially, researchers thought the solar wind has to cool down very rapidly as it expands from the Sun, but satellite measurements show that as it reaches the Earth, its temperature is 10 times larger than expected.”
The research team used laboratory equipment to study moving plasma, and now think the answer to the problem lies in a trapped sea of electrons that just can’t seem to escape the Sun’s grip.
The expansion process itself has long been assumed to be subject to adiabatic laws, a term that simply means heat energy isn’t added or removed from a system. This keeps the numbers nice and simple, but assumes there aren’t places where energy slips in or out of the flow of particles.
Unfortunately, an electron’s journey is anything but simple, shoved around at the mercy of vast magnetic fields like a roller coaster from Hell. This chaos leaves plenty of opportunity for heat to be passed back and forth.
Just to complicate matters further, thanks to its tiny mass, electrons get a good head start over heavier ions as they shoot forth from the Sun’s atmosphere, leaving a largely positive cloud of particles in their wake.
Eventually the growing attraction between the two opposing charges takes over the inertia of those flying electrons, pulling them back to the starting line where magnetic fields once again play havoc with their paths.
“Such returning electrons are reflected so that they stream away from the Sun, but again they cannot escape because of the attractive electric force of the Sun,” says Boldyrev.
“So, their destiny is to bounce back and forth, creating a large population of so-called trapped electrons.”
Boldyrev and his crew recognised a similar game of electron ping-pong playing out in their own laboratory, inside an apparatus commonly used to study plasma called a mirror machine.
Mirror machines don’t actually contain any mirrors. At least, not the familiar shiny kind. Also known as magnetic mirrors or magnetic traps, these linear fusion devices are little more than long tubes with a bottle-neck at either end.
Their reflective nature is created as streams of plasma passing through the bottle pinch in at either end, altering the surrounding magnetic fields in such a way that particles within the stream reflect back inside again.
“But some particles can escape, and when they do, they stream along expanding magnetic field lines outside the bottle,” Boldyrev says.
“Because the physicists want to keep this plasma very hot, they want to figure out how the temperature of the electrons that escape the bottle declines outside this opening.”
Or if you’re Boldyrev and his team, those leaking electrons can be studied to better understand what’s happening with our very own solar wind.
He and his colleagues suggest the population of trapped electrons that yo-yo back and forth play a major role in the way electrons distribute their heat energy, changing the typical distributions of particle velocities and temperatures in predictable ways.
“It turns out that our results agree very well with measurements of the temperature profile of the solar wind and they may explain why the electron temperature declines with the distance so slowly,” says Boldyrev.
Finding such a good match between the mirror machine’s figures and what we see in space suggests there could be other solar phenomena worth studying this way.
This research was published in PNAS.
Mother mystified by Winnipeg toddler's 'terrifying' condition after coming down with COVID-19 – Yahoo News Canada
Doctors are investigating the case of a Winnipeg toddler with symptoms suggesting a rare, inflammatory illness potentially linked to COVID-19, the girl’s mother says.
The 21-month-old child is fighting to recover, even after she no longer tested positive for COVID-19.
The mother says health-care providers treating her daughter are concerned the girl may have developed Kawasaki disease, which is also known as multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) in children.
Inflammatory syndromes can result from the body’s reaction to new viruses — not just the new coronavirus. But doctors in Canada, and scientists around the world, are investigating for a link to COVID-19.
Public health officials say no cases of the conditions connected with COVID-19 have been confirmed in Manitoba so far.
“Honestly, it’s just terrifying … Doctors don’t have the answers,” said the girl’s mother, who CBC is not naming due to concern about stigma.
The toddler’s parents didn’t know what to make of the her symptoms. She had a red, puffy rash, vomiting and diarrhea, a tender abdomen and a recurring fever that spiked to 38.9 C (102 F).
“She refused to eat, barely had anything to drink,” said her mother.
Pediatricians they contacted were cautious about sending the child to a hospital, and told the mother to try Tylenol, thinking the girl had a flu.
On April 28, two days after the girl’s symptoms arose, the family learned the husband has been exposed to a co-worker who later tested positive for COVID-19.
They went for testing immediately, and blood work confirmed the toddler had COVID-19, the mother said.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="WATCH | Toronto doctor answers questions about inflammatory syndrome following COVID-19” data-reactid=”34″>WATCH | Toronto doctor answers questions about inflammatory syndrome following COVID-19
At that point, Manitoba had fewer than 25 active cases of the disease and was announcing plans for reopening.
“It was absolutely devastating,” the mother said. “How could it possibly be COVID … with the cases being so low?”
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="‘More unknowns than knowns’” data-reactid=”37″>‘More unknowns than knowns’
A provincial spokesperson said since Kawasaki disease isn’t required to be reported in Manitoba, officials can’t confirm investigations into the illness in Manitoba.
The spokesperson said Manitoba pediatric infectious disease experts are in constant communication with specialists in Ontario and Quebec.
Hospitals in Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta are examining possible cases of MIS-C. Experts say the illness is difficult to diagnose and cases remain ill defined.
“There are way more unknowns than knowns,” said Rae Yeung, a professor of pediatrics, immunology and medical sciences at the University of Toronto, and staff pediatrician and rheumatologist at the Hospital for Sick Children.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content=""Right now, the big challenge is that there is not one diagnostic test … that can actually tell us whether a child has MIS-C or Kawasaki disease, [which are] all one hyper-inflammatory syndrome," said Yeung.” data-reactid=”42″>”Right now, the big challenge is that there is not one diagnostic test … that can actually tell us whether a child has MIS-C or Kawasaki disease, [which are] all one hyper-inflammatory syndrome,” said Yeung.
“As we’re learning, the one common denominator is that they have massive immune activation. But many things can cause massive immune activation.”
When she’s not sick, the child in Winnipeg is “very chatty. She’s energetic, running around,” said her mother.
COVID-19 sucked that energy away as the toddler mostly slept.
Eventually, “she was only awake approximately three hours in a 24-hour period,” her mother said.
After she tested positive, doctors admitted the toddler to the hospital for treatment and testing to rule out anything else that may have been making her sicker.
Initially, doctors hoped her body could fight off the disease on its own, her mother said. But the family has been in and out of the hospital for weeks as her condition remained serious.
Last week, the toddler’s health took a turn for the worse. But on May 28, tests showed she’s now negative for COVID-19 and is fighting a new medical battle.
Doctors then raised the possibility of MIS-C or Kawasaki, the mother said, and will now begin further tests to help understand exactly what is making her daughter so ill.
“You just kind of feel helpless because you can’t make [your children] feel better,” she said.
“You don’t want to see them sick, especially with something so serious as a pandemic. You just wish you could take their pain away.”
Yeung calls MIS-C “the syndrome with many different names,” because depending on where you are in the world, it might be called different things.
“I think this is part of the reason why it’s led to some confusion and a lot of anxiety, in fact, among not only families, but also caregivers and health-care professionals,” she said.
Much of what’s known about the disease remains hypothetical, she said, and research is needed to understand more. At its core, the syndrome can be characterized by inflammation, especially in blood vessels, caused by a hyperactivation of the immune system.
“What we’re seeing in all of these syndromes is hyper inflammation — just an overactive immune system that’s gone into overdrive, affecting multiple organs in the body,” she said.
The illnesses in that family are triggered by a “tickle” to the immune system, Yeung said, starting with anything from strep throat to the novel coronavirus. Canada documents roughly 100 to 150 cases of Kawasaki disease a year, she said.
But epidemiology in Europe, the U.S. and Canada has suggested a pattern, as cases of inflammatory syndromes in children emerge roughly four to six weeks following the peak coronavirus outbreak in each population.
Many, even most, of the children diagnosed with these illnesses don’t initially test positive when swabbed for COVID-19, Yeung said, but blood work often shows the children had the disease previously.
It’s still not clear exactly how many cases of the inflammatory illness there are in Canada, Yeung said. She said at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, they’re seeing roughly three to four times the volume of these illnesses over normal years.
Yeung is helping lead research, in partnership with the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Public Health Agency of Canada, with doctors across the country to determine where cases are and help understand them better.
“I think sharing knowledge and alerting the public is a very important component of this,” Yeung said.
The mother of the Winnipeg toddler said she wanted to share her story to spread information and urge caution from parents.
“It’s rare, but it’s serious,” the mother said. “If you’re in doubt, take your child to the hospital.”
Scenes of SpaceX launching NASA astronauts into orbit, moment by moment – CNET
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, perched atop the company’s Falcon 9 rocket, takes off from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station. The May 30 launch was the first US rocket launch with a crew since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011 and SpaceX’s first crewed mission ever. The mission is called Demo-2 since its primary purpose is to test out SpaceX’s spacecraft.
An Asteroid Bigger Than The Empire State Building Poses ‘No Danger’ On Saturday Night, Says NASA – Forbes
A huge near-Earth asteroid will pass our planet tonight at a safe distance of 3.2 million miles, according to NASA.
After a spate of doom-laden headlines the space agency felt the need yesterday to update a previous post about near-Earth asteroids with the following note:
“Asteroid 2002 NN4 will safely pass by the Earth on June 6 at a distance of approximately 3.2 million miles (5.1 million kilometers), about 13 times further away from the Earth than the Moon is. There is no danger the asteroid will hit the Earth.”
Asteroid 2002 NN4’s closest approach to Earth will be at 11:20 p.m. EDT. on Saturday, June 6, 2020.
NASA also tweeted the same advice:
NASA Asteroid Watch then tweeted this image of the asteroid’s trajectory:
How big is Asteroid 2002 NN4?
Asteroid 2002 NN4 is huge. Measuring between 820 feet and 1,870 feet (250 meters to 570 meters) according to Space.com. New York City’s Empire State Building is 443.2 meters tall, including its antenna.
That’s over a dozen times bigger than the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, in 2013. That was the biggest meteor for over a century.
Would asteroid 2002 NN4 be dangerous if it hit Earth?
Yes—asteroid 2002 NN4 is city-killer size, but it’s not going to cause any harm to anyone.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
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