NASA EDGE Show 4: Sun-Earth Connection

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NASA EDGE Show 4: Sun-Earth Connection
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Show 4: Sun-Earth Connection

Featuring: Blair turns geocaching into Man vs. Wild, news with Franklin, interviews with Dr. Nicky Fox and Troy Cline and the mighty mighty Space Weather Action Center.

Chris Giersch: Co-Host
Blair Allen: Co-Host
Franklin Fitzgerald: News Anchor


CHRIS: Oh. Hey Blair, what's going on?

BLAIR: Not much. I'm just working on my first "Inside NASA" assignment.

CHRIS: Oh, the NASA 101.

BLAIR: Yeah, in fact, I'm beta testing the geocaching activity.

CHRIS: Geocaching?

BLAIR: Yeah, geocaching. I thought you knew what that was. It's pretty simple. It's basically a high-tech scavenger hunt.

CHRIS: I know what geocaching is but why are they letting you do it? It's pretty challenging.

BLAIR: Oh no, it's simple. I've found several geocaches on the internet within a three mile radius. I'm settin' out to find 'em now.

CHRIS: It says right here that the five caches are within a twelve-mile radius.

BLAIR: Oh, you're probably making the classic mile/kilometer error.

CHRIS: Hold on. No, in fact, it's actually a twenty-eight mile radius, smack dab in the Dismal Swamp.

BLAIR: Let me see that. You know Chris, you disappoint me. You feel threatened by my soon-to-be-heralded "insider" status. I'm going to knock these caches out before you finish your run.

CHRIS: Whatever. Happy trails. Don't forget we're shooting Friday.

BLAIR: Of course.

CHRIS: Have fun.

BLAIR: See you on the other side.

[Blair aimlessly wandering, talking to himself]

BLAIR: The battery's fine. I played Pac-man for two hours. And it's still working just fine.

BLAIR: Insanity!

BLAIR: What's going on? I hit the button….

BLAIR: [awakes] Oh, morning. Oh my goodness!


BLAIR: [screaming] CHRIS!


[muttering] gotta find the geocache…. AAAH!

[Bad Day music]

CHRIS: Hey, welcome to NASA Edge…

FRANKLIN: … an inside and outside look at all things NASA. I'm your stand-in co-host, Franklin.

CHRIS: Where's Blair?

FRANKLIN: He called and said he'd be a little late. He said something about, ah, he got lost.

CHRIS: He got lost?

FRANKLIN: Yeah, I think it had something to do with a geocache…

CHRIS: Well, about three days ago, he went out on this geocache expedition. And I guess, was trying to find some of these travel bugs. I mean that was three days ago. There's no way he could have been geocaching those three days.

FRANKLIN: Oh absolutely. You can have…

[Blair enters hastily and disheveled]

BLAIR: It's okay. I got it. Right here.

CHRIS: What are you doing? We're live on the set of the show.

BLAIR: Yes. … an inside and outside look at all things NASA. Chris, how are we doing today?

CHRIS: Why ya late?

BLAIR: No. Am I late?

FRANKLIN: The show started rolling about two minutes ago.

BLAIR: No, I know. Okay, I was late but…

CHRIS: Actually, he (pointing to Franklin) was doing a good job as co-host.

BLAIR: I never questioned his talent. All I'm saying is…

[Franklin laughing]

BLAIR: … the technology thing. I got just a little freaked out this weekend. The whole geocache thing was a little rough.

CHRIS: You've been geocaching for the last three days?

BLAIR: Um, actually I stopped geocaching about three days ago. I got some sketchy data on the old GPS. I didn't throw it out but I almost did a couple times. But no, I'm fine now. It just gave me some crazy stuff.

CHRIS: Did you check the weather before you went out?

BLAIR: Ah… yeah. It was like sunny. It was perfect.

CHRIS: What about space weather?

BLAIR: Chris, we're in Chesapeake, Virginia.

[Blair & Franklin laughing] We're not going into orbit or anything.

CHRIS: Franklin, obviously he's still on the "outside" of NASA.


CHRIS: He's not with it yet.

FRANKLIN: Absolutely. If you get lost in Chesapeake, Virginia, you are clearly on the outside.

BLAIR: No, well…

CHRIS: Do you realize that sometimes when you are using electronic equipment, if you have space weather, such as solar storms or CME's, that could affect your equipment?



BLAIR: Really? That's interesting. They didn't have that in the manual.

CHRIS: I tell you what. Here's what we'll do. Ron, if you could do us a favor? Go ahead and contact Dr. Nicky Fox from Goddard.

BLAIR: I'm fine.

CHRIS: No, no.

BLAIR: Physically…

CHRIS: Contact Dr. Nicky Fox. We're going to explain to you all about space weather. We'll go ahead and take a break. Come back, Franklin will share the news…

BLAIR: Okay.

CHRIS: And hopefully, we'll get Nicky Fox on the line and we'll…

BLAIR: Let me just clarify. So you're suggesting, you're positing, you're theorizing, you're speculating, you're announcing, you're declaring…

CHRIS: Whatever.

BLAIR: … that, somehow, space weather is related to the problem I had with my GPS and possibly cell phone?

CHRIS: I think there is a good possibility.

FRANKLIN: There's a very good possibility.

BLAIR: Alright, let's wait and hear from Dr. Nicky Fox.

CHRIS: Sorry for the short break but you're watching NASA Edge…

BLAIR: … an inside…

FRANKLIN: …and outside look at all things NASA.

BLAIR: yeah…

CHRIS: What a moron.

BLAIR: Yeah, a real outside look at this point. Outside lookin' in!


CHRIS: Welcome back to NASA Edge.

[Blair scrambling to get himself together]

BLAIR: …an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

CHRIS: You've got to D up.

BLAIR: Sorry. Look, let's just go on with the show.

CHRIS: Alright. Well, Ron is going to try to get a hold of Dr. Nicky Fox regarding space weather. While Ron's doing that, let's go ahead and talk to Franklin and he'll tell us the news.

BLAIR: Bail me out with the news, Franklin.

FRANKLIN: Okay. In the news… NASA issued a request for a proposal for the ARES one launch vehicle upper stage element. Ares one is the launch vehicle that will transport the Orion crew exploration vehicle and its crew and cargo to low Earth orbit.

BLAIR: Check it out Franklin. Better than that, we've got an actual… What is this a 3, 600, 480, 6, 9000th scale model?

CHRIS: For the mathematically challenged, this is actually a 1/100th scale model of Aries launch vehicle…

BLAIR: 1/100th scale, Franklin.

CHRIS: … with the Orion space cap on top.

FRANKLIN: Well, we'll just call it small.

BLAIR: Yeah. Well, yeah… okay.

FRANKLIN: Continuing on the topic of exploration, I have to tell you about a NASA insider, Blair, I recently met while…

BLAIR: I'm an insider?

FRANKLIN: No, no, no. I'm just trying to emphasize…

BLAIR: Oh, you're telling me.

FRANKLIN: … while I was working with NASA's Office of Education in Charlotte, North Carolina. I met, astronaut, administrator, pilot, and officer, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Charles Bolden, Jr. Besides both of us being marines, and NASA insiders, we are both members of the same faternity, Omega Psi Phi.


CHRIS: That make two thirds of us "insiders," one third "outsider."

BLAIR: Yet another obstacle for me to overcome, to become an insider.

FRANKLIN: You're going to be fine. Don't worry about it.

BLAIR: Okay, good.

FRANKLIN: It's coming soon.

BLAIR: Okay, great.

FRANKLIN: It was a pleasure to meet with the General, as he taught students from elementary school to college about NASA and the importance of science, technology, engineering, and math. You can read more about Gen. Bolden and other astronauts on the NASA website at

FRANKLIN: On NASA's website, there is an excellent page called This Month in Exploration. And during the month of March, there are quite a few historical tidbits to keep you busy as you explore NASA's future, present, and past.

BLAIR: Excellent.

FRANKLIN: March 2, 1972, guys, check this out. NASA launched the Pioneer 10 space probe. The first spacecraft to capture close-range images of Jupiter and the first to travel outside our solar system.

BLAIR: Hey, another outsider. I can relate. That's great, me and Pioneer 10.

[Franklin & Chris laughing]

CHRIS: I'm sorry. I don't have a model. I'm sorry.

BLAIR: Ah, that's okay. You got me… Pioneer 11.

FRANKLIN: It carried a plaque of a coded message that any scientifically educated society would be able to translate.

BLAIR: Just like me.

FRANKLIN: Its final signal was sent to Earth in January 2003 and it is currently more than 8 billion miles away from Earth. That is just one of many outstanding facts you'll find at "This Month in Exploration" on the NASA website. So guys, check it out!

BLAIR: Eight million miles, that's…


BLAIR: Eight billion miles… I wonder when the warranty ran out on that one.

CHRIS: Franklin, thank you for the news. And I think, according to Ron, we have Dr. Nicky on the line. So, let's go ahead and take a break. Come back and talk more about space weather.

BLAIR: Perfect, right here on NASA Edge.

CHRIS: …An inside and outside look at all things NASA.


BLAIR: Welcome back to NASA Edge.

CHRIS: … an inside and outside look at all things NASA. I think Ron has Dr. Nicky Fox on the line.

BLAIR: Perfect. Which as you know, I need all the help I can with the sun.

CHRIS: Hey, Dr. Fox. How are you doing?

DR. FOX: I'm doing good, thank you.

CHRIS: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule. We're trying to bring Blair more of the inside and teach him all about the sun and space weather. Unfortunately, he had a slight problem….

BLAIR: Well, I don't want to overdo it. I mean I just got lost with my GPS this weekend. It was due to some solar activity. This can be common, right?

CHRIS: Well, that's true and maybe Dr. Fox, you can teach him more about the sun and all about space weather.

DR. FOX: Certainly.

BLAIR: Oh great. Perfect. Well, first thing… As I said I was in this traumatic experience this weekend with the GPS. Let's talk a little bit about the relationship between the sun and the earth. Is it a close relationship?

DR. FOX: Yes, it is a very close relationship. The sun has an atmosphere, which is continually streaming away. We call it the solar corona. We like to say, "whenever the sun sneezes, the earth will catch a cold."

BLAIR: Wow, that's gross.

[all laughing] Is there any way we can stop this germ-spreading star at the center of our solar system?

DR. FOX: Yes. Well, fortunately we have a protective outer layer, maybe a Kleenex layer, which is the earth's magnetosphere. It's the magnetic atmosphere that surrounds our planet and that manages to keep away most of those harmful germs or that high radiation that would be coming from the sun all the time. That's why we're safe down here on the planet. When you are at solar maximum, you are seeing these storms very frequently, maybe as many as two or three in a month. Down at solar minimum, you are probably around one every two months and they're much smaller.

FRANKLIN: Say Dr. Fox, are there any adverse effects on the earth's surface if the earth's magnetosphere, the Kleenex, does not catch all of that sneeze?

BLAIR: That also is very gross.

[more laughing] I'm really nervous now. That's what happened to me this weekend.

DR. FOX: Well, no. Fortunately, we are very well protected because of the various layers of our atmosphere do a very good job of protecting us. However, anything that's out in space, for example satellites, will see effects because of this increased radiation that can come in around them. One of the most beautiful side affects of these "sneezes," is, in fact, you will see very beautiful aurorae or the northern and southern lights.

BLAIR: This brings up a very interesting issue. I have to ask you a favor. After going through this situation this weekend, I came up with a new term I think applies here in the aurora situation or the magnetosphere situation. And I was hoping maybe you could adopt it in the space weather program. And that is "magnetospherence."


[chuckle] That's great. I love that.

BLAIR: That's an endorsement. She said that's great. See, I'd like to see that used in space weather forecasts. Is that possible? Do we even have space weather forecasts?

DR. FOX: There are space weather forecasts. They're put out by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

CHRIS: There we go.

DR. FOX: They have a space weather center, which is located in Boulder, Colorado. And they are responsible for putting out those space weather forecasts.

BLAIR: Okay.

CHRIS: Wonderful.

FRANKLIN: I've been there.

BLAIR: Maybe you and I can talk later about getting them to use "magnetospherence."

DR. FOX: Yeah, I'll put that high on my list of things to do today.

BLAIR: Ah, Excellent. I am an insider.

CHRIS: Another term Blair didn't want to bring up but I have to bring up is that he wanted to come up with a new term for CME or coronal mass ejection. He just doesn't like that word.

BLAIR: Yeah, it makes me nervous.

CHRIS: It makes him nervous. Is there a way you can calm him down and convince him it's a….

DR. FOX: Well, it's a very straightforward expression. It's just explaining exactly what's happening. On the sun's outer atmosphere, the corona, every now and again, ejects large blobs of plasma. And they have a mass and so they are coronal mass ejections.

BLAIR: What about sun bolt?

DR. FOX: Um… I preferred "magnetospherence."


BLAIR: Oh, okay. I'm cuttin' my losses. I'll take "magnetospherence" and we'll go from there.

DR. FOX: Maybe solar storm, if you're more comfortable with that.

CHRIS: There we go.

BLAIR: Oh, solar storm sounds cool. I like that.

CHRIS: Well, Dr. Fox, I want to thank you very much for taking the time again to come out and give Blair a lesson and bring him more on the inside and learn all about the sun.

BLAIR: I still feel like I have a lot of work to do. But you've definitely pointed me in the right direction.

DR. FOX: Oh, there's always things to learn about the sun. That's what's great about being a solar scientist. It's a different star everyday.

CHRIS: And if there's ever an event, a huge CME or a huge "sneeze" that comes by that we need to know about, can you give us a call?

DR. FOX: Yes, definitely.

BLAIR: Gesundheit!

[others laughing] God bless you.

CHRIS: Absolutely. Well, have a great day Dr. Fox.

BLAIR: Dr. Fox, I just want to thank you so much for speaking with us today. And certainly enlightening me about all things sun related. I need a lot of help and, at least, I understand things a little better about this weekend. So, I appreciate that.

DR. FOX: No problem. I'm glad I could help.

CHRIS: And I just want to let you know every time we start sneezing, we're going to think about the sun.

BLAIR: And Dr. Nicky Fox.

CHRIS: And Dr. Nicky Fox, absolutely.

BLAIR: And incidentally, I will credit you for using "magnetospherence." I appreciate that. And we'll talk later about compensation for that.

DR. FOX: Okay. Alright.

CHRIS: Have a great day, Dr. Fox.

DR. FOX: Thank you very much. Same to you.

CHRIS: Bye, bye.

DR. FOX: Bye, bye.

BLAIR: Fantastic.

CHRIS: Well…

BLAIR: She's going to use my "magnetospherence."

CHRIS: I think that's great.

BLAIR: I may not be an insider but I'm kickin' words out for NASA.

CHRIS: You need to trademark that term.

BLAIR: Yeah, I know. I need to right away. But you know, first we need to go to a break and hopefully, we'll come back and learn even more about the sun.

CHRIS: Absolutely, you're watching NASA Edge

BLAIR: …an inside and outside look at all things NASA.


BLAIR: Welcome back to NASA Edge.

CHRIS: … an inside and outside look at all things NASA. Boy, that was a pretty neat interview with Dr. Nicky Fox.

BLAIR: Oh, she was great. She was fabulous.

CHRIS: The accent… I like that British accent.

BLAIR: Very knowledgeable. She knows tons about the sun. The big question that I have -- and I am sure it's not a question for you but for me -- is when you think about all these things going on with the sun and the satellites and everything, the average guy like me…

CHRIS: …on the outside, right.

BLAIR: What else do we need to know about the sun? I understand the technological side but is there any else that NASA does that we need to know about?

CHRIS: You know, I think Franklin can tell us a little bit more about the sun-earth connection.

BLAIR: Great. What's you got Franklin?

FRANKLIN: Well, as far as the news is concerned, I don't have anything on my rundown but I do have Troy Cline on the phone from the Sun-Earth Education forum at NASA Goddard. How ya doin' Troy.

TROY: I'm doing great. How 'bout you?

FRANKLIN: Pretty good.

CHRIS: Hey Troy, Blair is, of course, on the outside of NASA and…

BLAIR: trying to get inside.

CHRIS: …trying to get on the inside. Could you kind of bring him up to speed about what you do at Goddard? And try and get the general public involved in learning more about space weather?

TROY: I certainly can. I can give you the inside scoop. How's that?

BLAIR: Oh, perfect. I've got my note-taking tools ready.

TROY: Well, we have several programs that people can get involved in. And one of them is call Sun-Earth day. And that's a program that started about six years ago when we were approached by several scientists, in the Sun-Earth connection community, who wanted to come up with some type of event or celebration to really let everyone know in the public, and museums, and schools about what is the sun and how in the world does the sun connect to the earth. And what's space weather and all of that? So we came up with Sun-Earth day that happens on or near the Spring Equinox every year. And we've been doing it about six years now.

BLAIR: So, basically you trumped Earth Day?

TROY: We absolutely did. Not only that…

CHRIS: Much bigger than Earth Day.


[laughing] Well, it's much broader, let's say. Our theme for this year is going to be called "Living in the Atmosphere of the Sun." And that's basically the scientific term for that is heliosphere. So people will probably be hearing more and more of that word as the years go by. But all of the planets, including the earth live inside the atmosphere of the sun. The sun's influence extends way past Pluto. And we basically live within, if we could see it, in a giant, magnetic bubble or cocoon.

CHRIS: We're doing some research for the show on the sun and I noticed that you're involved in a new program called Space Weather Action Centers. Is that kind of like forecasting?

TROY: Oh, it's absolutely forecasting. It's done in such a way that students in any classroom with one internet connection can connect and set up a space weather action center in their school. It's like a learning center with an internet connection.

BLAIR: Actually, that's a great idea. And talk about hands-on and getting out there and doing something where you're actually involved in the education and not simply…

TROY: Oh, that's right.

CHRIS: Absolutely.

BLAIR: … just reading about it but you're actually participating.

TROY: And it takes you outside of the science classroom. The English teachers can get involved, the art teachers. It's pretty cross curricular, so I think everyone can have fun with that.

CHRIS: Do you have a website people can go to?

TROY: We sure do. It's

CHRIS: Troy, do you have time to answer a few email questions?

TROY: I sure do.

CHRIS: Alright. I'll start first since I'm on the inside and you're on the outside.

BLAIR: Sure. Yeah. We get to me, fine.

CHRIS: The first question is from Svein, in Andenes, Norway. Norway has many myths and legends about the northern lights and the sun. Do you present any myths or legends in Sun-Earth Day programs?

TROY: Oh, absolutely we do. As a matter of fact, that's one of our key components. There's a section of our website on Sun-Earth day called Technology through Time. And as you go through there, you'll find a series of essays, journals, journal reports and links that talk about not only technology of today but how sun watchers throughout time were observing the sun. And myths and legends absolutely fit into that mix.

BLAIR: Listen. I got one quick question for you. And Alex, in Dayton, Ohio, is actually concerned. And wants to know if you were responsible for actually moving daylight savings time up to accommodate Sun-Earth Day? Is that true?

TROY: You know that wasn't easy to accomplish but our webcast just got longer and longer. And we needed a few days. So…

BLAIR: See, I thought that energy answer was bogus. I knew you guys were behind it. I think that's great.

CHRIS: Hey Troy, thanks for taking the time to join us today and giving us an education about Sun-Earth Day today and all the different education programs. And I know that Sun-Earth Day does not just happen one day but I'm sure happens all year. And by the way, what was that web address again?

TROY: It's

CHRIS: Cool. In fact, we have the site up here. It looks pretty neat. Check it out. Troy's done a really good job with the site.

TROY: Hey, thanks a lot.

CHRIS: Well, have a great day and we'll keep in touch throughout the year.

BLAIR: Happy Earth Day.

TROY: Ah, Sun-Earth Day.

CHRIS: Sun-Earth day.


CHRIS: You said Earth day


[singing] Happy Sun-Earth Day to you… Mr. President.


[laughing] Mr. President.

CHRIS: Alright. You're watching NASA Edge.


[laughing] …an inside and outside, a way outside the bounds, look at all things NASA.

CHRIS: We'll be right back.


BLAIR: I got melodious. I don't know what happened. That was just strange.

Segment 05

BLAIR: Welcome back to NASA Edge, an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

CHRIS: Hey wasn't it great to talk to Dr. Fox and Troy today?

BLAIR: They were fantastic. In fact, it's really clear that space weather is becoming more and more important.

CHRIS: Oh, absolutely.

BLAIR: That's why I put together a special report. I'm leaving the comfort of my Amish exile in the desk here and I'm heading over to the NASA Edge space weather action center.

FRANKLIN: Space weather action center? What's that?

CHRIS: I didn't know we had one. This I have to see.

BLAIR: Good evening, I'm Blair Allen with the NASA Edge space weather action center with a brief, yet interesting, and important look at all things space weather. The sun, what can I say? Blazing hot, 5800 degrees Kelvin all week every week but on the good side, it is a dry heat.

FRANKLIN: So, like there's no humidity?

BLAIR: That's right, Franklin. No humidity, which is a good thing.

CHRIS: So, does the temperature on the surface of the sun change?

BLAIR: Actually, that's a good point Chris. There are seasons on the sun. So in one sense, I guess you could say the 5,800 degrees Kelvin could be considered spring-like conditions. However, winter, spring, summer or fall, you pretty much burst into flames if you're on the surface.



BLAIR: Oh, how did these get here? Ah, oh yes, there we go.



BLAIR: Thank you. This is interesting. This is why I had a failure with my GPS experiment. This is what I like to call a class five CME, coronal mass ejection, or as really cool scientists say, "a solar storm."

CHRIS: I'm sorry, did you say a class five CME?

BLAIR: Ah yes, that's correct.

CHRIS: What the heck is a class five CME?

BLAIR: Actually, I developed my own classification system based on the size of the JPEG images.

CHRIS: So, this is your own, non-scientific classification?

BLAIR: Precisely.



CHRIS: Please continue.

BLAIR: Anyway, the sun bolts or solar storm actually impact our everyday lives on Earth. Yes, there we go. The radiation travels from the sun through the heliosphere to our planet. It is this radiation that can cause problems with the ISS, the space shuttle if it's flying, global communication satellites, global positioning satellites and yes, even our beloved magnetosphere.

CHRIS: Alright, so what kind of problems does this create?

BLAIR: Please be patient. I'll get to that.

FRANKLIN: I hope you get to that point faster than the three days it takes for the radiation to make it to our planet.

BLAIR: We have a tough crowd here at the NASA Edge space weather action center. I'm getting there. Essentially, the radiation bombards our magnetosphere causing varying degrees of "magnetospherence."

FRANKLIN: Nice, "magnetospherence."

BLAIR: That's my own word. Yes, used with permission of course.

CHRIS: Alright Webster, so what's your five-day outlook.

BLAIR: Sorry Chris. The high "magnetospherence" rating actually indicates high degrees of radiation, impacting the ISS… or the shuttle… or satellites… or GPS satellites, um, causing all kinds of technical difficulties.

CHRIS: Okay Webster, why is this important to the average NASA Edge viewer.

BLAIR: Well, I personally wouldn't want to relay on GPS to help navigate during high levels of magnetospherene." My recent debacle in the dismal swamp heavily speaks for itself.

FRANKLIN: You also don't want to forgo a liberal use of sunblock during high levels of "magnetospherence."

BLAIR: That's an excellent point, Franklin. In that case, I wouldn't burn, I would actually combust.

CHRIS: That's kind of interesting.

BLAIR: Yes Chris, it's very much like those commercials that have people using cell phones, where someone is saying something very significant and important, and the other person can't hear a word their saying. I don't know if that's exactly how it works but those ads really capture the essence of "magnetospherence."

CHRIS: Hey thanks, Blair. You actually did a pretty good job… [Blair hears nothing while Chris talks] …or maybe you'll be here. Hey, thanks again. That's all the time we have for now. Visit our website and keep those emails coming. You're watching NASA Edge, an inside and outside look at all things NASA.

BLAIR: So what are you saying? Am I still a co-host? There was some sound loss.

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