On August 27 1998, the Earth was hit by an immense wave of gamma and x-ray radiation. It happened at night over the Pacific Ocean & was so powerful that it temporarily ionized the upper atmosphere just as the sun does at daytime.

This is the most powerful burst of energy ever recorded from beyond our solar system. Astronomers said this radiation blast was equivalent to enough energy to power civilization for a billion billion years. Yet with Earth's protective upper atmosphere most of the energy was absorbed by it. Only a miniscule amount reach the Earth's surface and amounted to the strength of a typical single dental x-ray.

One research physicist from UC Berkeley, Kevin Hurley, spoke at a NASA news conference Sept.29 about the phenomenom: "We've been monitoring things like this for 30 years and we've never seen anything like this before." So this is a pretty unique event.

Seven scientific satellites detected the massive eruption. Five are in Earth orbit, one is heading to an asteroid and one by the orbit of Jupiter. Hurley said the burst was so intense that two of the satellites had to shut down to protect their delicate electronics.

All this energy came from a neutron star called SGR1900\+14 in the contellation Aquila. It's some 20,000light years away. A neutron star is the collapsed core left after a massive star explodes.

Click the star to learn more about neutron stars.


This interesting question was asked in the "Questions and Answers" section of "The Planetary Report" Sept./Oct. 1998 issue. The answer came from a faculty member of Cornell University, Phil Nicholson:

"If Jupiter were in a circular orbit much closer to that of Earth than it is, then our planet's orbit would be destabilized. A rough estimate is that large instabilities would ensue if Jupiter's orbit were as near as the present orbit of Mars, perhaps leading to the collision of Earth and Jupiter or the ejection of Earth from the solar system. Fortunately, Jupiter remains at a safe distance and Earth's orbit is stable enough to last for billions of years.

If Jupiter somehow left its present orbit and passed close to Earth (which would require some extremely unlikely extra-solar event, such as a near-collision of the Sun with another star), then dramatic changes to Earth and its orbit would likely occur. Huge tides would be raised in the ocean and in the solid parts of Earth. If the giant planet were to pass as close as the orbit of the Moon (say 350,000 kilometers, or about 220,000 miles), then tides 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) high would rupture Earth's crust. Earthquakes, tsunamis and ocean tides several kilometers high would destroy most structures on land. The orientation of Earth's axis would probably not change significantly, due to the short duration of the encounter. It would probably tip just a few tenths of a degree with a lunar-distance passage.

Another interesting effect might be the immersion of Earth in Jupiter's immense magnetosphere, potentially disrupting Earth's magnetosphere and resulting in atypical auroral activity and magnetic storms. A close passage of Jupiter might well remove the Moon from orbit, with long-term consequences for the stability of Earth's tilt and climate. (The gravitational influence of the Moon acts to stabilize the Earth's axial tilt of 23.5 degrees, preventing the large oscillations that are thought to afflict Mars' climate on 100,000-year timescales.)

If any human observers remained alive, the appearance of Jupiter in place of the Moon in our sky would be impressive. Jupiter would look about 50 times as big and reflect about 6,500 times as much sunlight as does the full Moon."


Here's an interesting article by Neil Strauss of the New York Times:

Before you or your grandparents were alive, before the days of Thomas Edison or Jesus Christ, even before the first human beings were around to hear it, there was radio.

And it was beautiful. Sweet descending tones, wispy wavering pitches and choruses of percussive pops and hisses filled the airwaves. Only there were no radio receivers in existence to capture them.

These were the sounds of Mother Nature's own radio station, produced by electromagnetic energy generated by lightning, the Earth's magnetic field and related phenomena like the northern and southern lights. But the world is such an electromagnetically loud place these days--full of power lines, electric light, automobiles and computers, not to mention radio stations programmed by humans--that nature's radio has been practically drowned out.

To hear it, one must travel to an area free of electronic interference (the desert, the jungle, Siberia, Central Park) with a specially made very-low-frequency radio receiver tuned below the AM and FM bands.

And that is what a growing number of hobbyists have been doing over the past few years, attracted not just by the sweet sounds and the possibility of making discoveries in this bizarre branch of plasma physics but also by the notion that to hear nature you must immerse yourself in nature.

As a result, you become attuned to the Earth in the same way that a surfer looking for the perfect wave gets to know the ocean. Sunspot activity is projected to be at a peak over the next few years, signaling an increase in magnetic storms and a prime time for radio explorers in search of these sounds.

One of the most active whistler hunters has been Stephen McGreevy. He has traveled everywhere from the Nevada desert to the Arctic Circle, sticking a metal radio antenna into the air during lightning storms to hear the rush of radio sounds. He recently released the first widely available compact disc of what is known as natural radio.

To listen to & learn more about "Earth music" just click the Earth:)


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