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October 8, 2018 | by  | in Super Science Trends |
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Super Science Trends

Steamed Hams But It’s A Science Column

Well readers, you made it, despite my directions. I hope you’re prepared for another unforgettable column.
*ignores deadline for too long, previous heavy research-dependent idea goes up in flames*
Egads! My boast is ruined! But what if… I were to co-opt an internet meme and disguise it as an informative science column? Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho! Delightfully devilish, Gus!
*theme music starts*
Mitchell with his crazy explanations
Salient readers gonna get an education
When they hear Gus’s strange pontifications
They’ll be humbled in town, tonight!
If you were a TV-addicted youth like me, chances are your first exposure to Aurora Borealis was as something localised entirely within Principal Skinner’s kitchen. In homage to one of the better shitposts in recent memory, I thought I’d do Springfield’s best educators a service with an explanation of the Northern Lights and why they matter.
Aurora Borealis?!
The Aurora Borealis, or the Aurora Australis if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, is a natural phenomenon that occurs at the poles of the Earth. Fluctuations in the sun’s magnetic field produce localised concentrations of temperature reduction on the sun’s surface, forming sunspots, which release solar particles out into space in the form of solar wind. These solar particles travel through space and eventually hit Earth’s atmosphere, reacting with oxygen and nitrogen particles and producing light. From our perspective, this results in dazzling green and purple lights in the skies.
Auroras occur on other planets in our solar system as well, namely on the gas giants Jupiter, Saturn, ranus, and Neptune, due to their thick atmospheres and strong magnetic fields. Current research is looking into evidence of auroras on exoplanets (planets in solar systems other than our own).

At this time of year? At this time of day?
Auroras occur all throughout the year, but are most observable during winter as the nights become longer in the aurora’s respective hemisphere. They also grow more intense during the solar maximum, a measured increase in sunspot activity that occurs roughly every 11 years.
In this part of the country?
Aurora Borealis has been observed in Canada, Alaska, Norway, Finland, and Russia. Solar particles that would otherwise be deflected by the Earth’s magnetosphere are drawn upwards to the poles where the magnetosphere is weakest, which is why auroras are appear more frequently there. NASA has conducted numerous research missions on auroras to learn how solar radiation interacts with the planet’s magnetosphere. The Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms mission (or THEMIS) uses satellites to measure the intensity of disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field in the form of magnetic substorms, how they intensify the auroras, and the different types of auroras that can result. Last year, NASA launched several rockets with scientific instruments into auroras in Alaska to gather live data on how auroras are affected by altitude.
Localised entirely within your kitchen?
No, but their effects can be! Sunspot activity can cause power surges across electrical grids, as well as disrupt radio transmissions and satellite comms.

May I see it?
Yes, and scientists want you to! Researchers have recently taken to calling on citizen scientists (amateur scientists in the general public who aid in research and data collection) to take photos of auroras in their area to provide better regular estimates of the total area of their appearance, or the “aurora oval”. The “aurora chasers” then collect and collate their aurora pics on social media to share them with researchers.

Bonus: favourite Steamed Hams shitpost variant?
Steamed Hams but It’s a Vocoded Version of the Piano Dub. I find it weirdly soothing.

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