The Sun-Earth Connection
The sun's energy has a great effect
on earth. Its light provides energy for photosynthesis in plants and algae,
the basis for the food chain, which ultimately feeds almost all life on
Sunspots also have an indirect but significant
impact on life here on earth. As early as the nineteenth century, scientists
noticed that high levels of activity on the sun, like flares and sunspots,
were followed shortly by strong fluctuations in magnetic instruments on
earth. They wondered what caused these changes.
Scientists today have discovered a lot
about the way the sunspots affect the earth. According to Dearborn, "The
sunspot itself, the dark region on the sun, doesn't by itself affect the
earth. However, it is produced by a magnetic field, and that magnetic field
doesn't just stop, it comes to the surface and expands out above the surface...."
Hot material called plasma near a sunspot interacts with magnetic fields,
and the plasma can burst up and out from the sun, in what is called a solar
flare. Energetic particles, x-rays and magnetic fields from these solar
flares bombard the earth in what are called geomagnetic storms. When these
storms reach earth, they affect us in many ways.