Tuesday, July 21, 2009

SOHO

While on the subject of space, here's a reminder of that celestial orb most critical to our existence: the Sun. All our life, light, and power ultimately comes from the Sun. It's what powers everything on our planet. Even fossil fuels were once plants that grew and flourished under our Sun, eventually being compressed under the weight of stone and time to be converted into oil.



And so our Sun is worth studying. There is a wonderful website that posts all the current and archived data of the ongoing SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) satellite. This is one of my favorite ongoing space-science experiments, with new observations coming in all the time. (The Hubble space telescope is another favorite, as is JPL's Planetary Photojournal.)



What's really wonderful about SOHO and similar observatories is that the data is made available for anyone who wants to use it: scientists, students, teachers, private researchers, and amateur enthusiasts such as myself. (And I'm geeky enough to understand a lot of the science and math. Does that make me a writer?)



The science here is also yours and mine, since it's paid for largely by our taxes (if you're a US citizen). So, it's available as raw material for making art, as I occasionally do. SOHO images have appeared in numerous magazines, as part of artworks, and more; there are even occasional art contests on the website.



When I first encountered SOHO, ten years ago, early in its career, I was first moved by the beauty of the data, even the raw data. On the Best of SOHO webpage, there are numerous gloriously beautiful as well as scientifically interesting images. I find some of these images simply beautiful in their own right; and many are available for download and/or printing.

SOHO demonstrates that the union of science and art is not only possible, it's going on all the time.

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