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  • It is almost the end of the winter,

  • and you've woken up to a cold house,

  • which is weird, because you left the heater on all night.

  • You turn on the light.

  • It's not working.

  • Actually, the coffee maker, the TV -- none of them are working.

  • Life outside also seems to have stopped.

  • There are no schools,

  • most of the businesses are shut,

  • and there are no working trains.

  • This is not the opening scene of a zombie apocalypse movie.

  • This is what happened in March 1989 in the Canadian province of Quebec,

  • when the power grid lost power.

  • The culprit?

  • A solar storm.

  • Solar storms are giant clouds of particles

  • escaping from the Sun from time to time,

  • and a constant reminder that we live in the neighborhood of an active star.

  • And I, as a solar physicist,

  • I have a tremendous chance to study these solar storms.

  • But you see, "solar storm chaser"

  • is not just a cool title.

  • My research helps to understand where they come from,

  • how they behave

  • and, in the long run,

  • aims to mitigate their effects on human societies,

  • which I'll get to in a second.

  • At the beginning of the space exploration age 50 years ago only,

  • the probes we sent in space

  • revealed that the planets in our Solar System

  • constantly bathe in a stream of particles that are coming from the Sun

  • and that we call the solar wind.

  • And in the same way that global wind patterns here on Earth

  • can be affected by hurricanes,

  • the solar wind is sometimes affected by solar storms

  • that I like to call "space hurricanes."

  • When they arrive at planets,

  • they can perturb the space environment,

  • which in turn creates the northern or southern lights,

  • for example, here on Earth,

  • but also Saturn

  • and also Jupiter.

  • Luckily, here on Earth,

  • we are protected by our planet's natural shield,

  • a magnetic bubble that we call the magnetosphere

  • and that you can see here on the right side.

  • Nonetheless, solar storms can still be responsible

  • for disrupting satellite telecommunications and operations,

  • for disrupting navigation systems, such as GPS,

  • as well as electric power transmission.

  • All of these are technologies on which us humans rely more and more.

  • I mean, imagine if you woke up tomorrow without a working cell phone --

  • no internet on it,

  • which means no social media.

  • I mean, to me that would be worse than the zombie apocalypse.

  • (Laughter)

  • By constantly monitoring the Sun, though,

  • we now know where the solar storms come from.

  • They come from regions of the Sun

  • where a tremendous amount of energy is being stored.

  • You have an example here,

  • as a complex structure hanging above the solar surface,

  • just on the verge of erupting.

  • Unfortunately, we cannot send probes

  • in the scorching hot atmosphere of the Sun,

  • where temperatures can rise up to around 10 million degrees Kelvin.

  • So what I do is I use computer simulations

  • in order to analyze but also to predict the behavior of these storms

  • when they're just born at the Sun.

  • This is only one part of the story, though.

  • When these solar storms are moving in space,

  • some of them will inevitably encounter space probes

  • that we humans have sent in order to explore other worlds.

  • What I mean by other worlds is, for example, planets,

  • such as Venus or Mercury,

  • but also objects, such as comets.

  • And while these space probes have been made

  • for different scientific endeavors,

  • they can also act like tiny cosmic meteorological stations

  • and monitor the evolution of these space storms.

  • So I, with a group of researchers, gather and analyze this data

  • coming from different locations of the Solar System.

  • And by doing so, my research shows that, actually,

  • solar storms have a generic shape,

  • and that this shape evolves as solar storms move away from the Sun.

  • And you know what?

  • This is key for building tools to predict space weather.

  • I would like to leave you with this beautiful image.

  • This is us here on Earth,

  • this pale blue dot.

  • And while I study the Sun and its storms every day,

  • I will always have a deep love for this beautiful planet --

  • a pale blue dot indeed,

  • but a pale blue dot with an invisible magnetic shield

  • that helps to protect us.

  • Thank you.

  • (Applause)

It is almost the end of the winter,

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B1 US TED solar space sun pale solar wind

【TED】Miho Janvier: Lessons from a solar storm chaser (Lessons from a solar storm chaser | Miho Janvier)

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    Zenn posted on 2018/01/16
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