I was showing my daughter a beautiful set of images that came up on APOD yesterday of a recent set of 4 X-class flares erupting from the Sun. Due to careful brainwashing on the part of her dad, she has become fascinated with the Sun and planets. It is tremendously satisfying to me to watch the fascination on her face as she watches videos like the one below. We are regular visitors to the NASA Little SDO channel on YouTube.
The SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) is a truly fascinating mission. The visuals are simply stunning, and over the past three years of operation has produced a set of truly spectacular videos and images that one simply has to see for themselves.
A few weeks back my daughter and I were watching one of these videos and she had an endless stream of wonderful questions:
Q: “Daddy, why is the Sun a different color?”
A: “Because they have special cameras to view the Sun in different colors of light.”
Q: “What different colors?”
A: “Ultra-Violet, a color that your eye can’t see.”
Q: “Why is the Sun on fire?”
And on and on. It was an extremely fun exchange of questions, that went on for about an hour. I explained to her how the Sun was constantly trying to blow itself apart through the reactions in its core, while simultaneously pulling itself back together with its powerful gravity. She knows all about gravity, from previous conversations, and so she understood. We discussed the magnetic field of the Sun, and the complex magnetic fields on its surface that produce the magnificent arcs of plasma that dance on its surface. She was very concerned that the Sun might burn the Earth, until I explained that it was very far away, and that the Earth’s magnetic field protects us from harmful radiation from the Sun. This satisfied her, and she was at ease again, and back to a state of fascination.
One of my favorite things about being a parent is the opportunity to re-experience the splendor of the universe. I have always been in awe of the universe, and still am, but it is a whole new experience seeing it through a child’s eyes again.
My weekly advice: Take your kid out stargazing. It doesn’t matter if you have a telescope or binoculars or just your bare eyes, your child will love it. And every once in a while, poke around on one of the NASA YouTube channels.