Sunspots, Flares and Gorse Fires

Today dawned bright and sunny here in Cornwall, if a tad cold! It seemed too much of a nice day to waste and not be on two wheels, so Harley and I hit the road and headed for Mid-Devon to visit my mate Greg, who has been a trifle poorly of late.

Well, to be honest that’s a bit of an understatement, the poor chap has had a bad dose of pneumonia (Is there such a thing as a good dose of it?) that has lasted a month. As a cheerful addition he has also gained two cracked ribs with all the coughing. No-one can call this guy a shirker either, he runs his own cleaning company, GME Cleaning Services, which specialises in high level work and though he tried to keep going eventually the germs finally won and sent him both to bed and hospital!

Worst of all he still can’t ride his motorbike, this is serious!!!

Harley and I headed east amongst all the retreating Emmetts on the A30, it was not fun having to second guess some of those idiots in (probably) company cars flying about like they never passed a driving test. Anyway we went cross-country from Whiddon Down and things got a whole lot nicer, quieter roads, lovely bends and dry tarmac all the way to Greg’s gaff high in the sunny Raddon Hills.

After about a gallon of tea and a splendid lunch Greg suggested we did a spot of astronomy….Now I’m quite partial to a spot of star-gazing myself, but at two in the afternoon, in bright sunshine?

No worries, out came my mate’s latest toy a P.S.T., that’s Personal Sun Telescope to us mere mortals, which was duly adjusted and pointed towards our nearest star, the sun.

At this point I need to emphasise a really important safety matter. DO NOT under any circumstances try this with anything you may have at home, that includes binoculars and ordinary telescopes, because IT WILL BLIND YOU!

The device that Greg owns is a scientific instrument made specially for observing the sun. I had never used one before and was blown away with what we could see. Clearly visible were a number of sunspots, these are turbulent magnetic fields that appear as dark spots on the surface of the sun which often lead to solar flares and coronal ejections and today we could see examples of those as well! Wow!

I’ve found a couple of photos on the net to show something of what we saw. First Sunspots and bear in mid that these spots are about six times the size of Planet Earth.Sun_projection_with_spotting-scopeNext Coronal Ejections, even bigger than the sun spots! Go Google for more info.science_sunspots_solar_flares_15_06_11After all that Solar excitement it was time to head back to Cornwall. Harley and I had a cracking ride towards home, but near Okehampton the sky over Dartmoor was blackened by a tremendous column of smoke. I found out later that a massive gorse fire was covering about 1500 acres of the moor and that smoke could be seen from 40 miles away. There were 12 fire engines in attendance with loads of volunteers helping too. Photo BBC.Gorse Fire

Great to get out for 150 miles of head clearing freedom, magic

The sirens are screaming and the fires are howling, way down in the valley tonight….


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