Lucianne Walkowicz presents a public talk at UC Berkeley on June 19, 2010, as part of the Science@Cal Lecture Series .
Sunspots are some of the oldest astronomical phenomena observed by human beings. These "freckles" on the the face of our Sun may look innocuous, but they are actually the footprints of huge magnetic loops that protrude from our star. These loops sometimes twist and snap, causing spectacular solar flares that send radiation and energetic particles hurtling towards Earth. These flares are responsible for beautiful aurorae, but they can also cause the troubling disruption of satellites and other infrastructure. Similar phenomena are observed on many other stars in our Galaxy, with some stellar flares being even more powerful than those of the Sun. What is it like to be a planet around those stars? How do flares and starspots affect a planet's ability to support and sustain life?
Other Science@Cal lectures
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