"Dorothy's tornado was nothing compared to the giant swirls of plasma that storm in outer space."
That was the first line from a most unusual article I read yesterday on Space.com regarding the interaction of the Earth's magnetic field and the solar wind.
"Space tornadoes are funnels of hot charged particles around the Earth that flow at more than a million mph (1.6 million kph). As the ions circle, they produce strong electrical currents that help create the gorgeous light show known as the aurora. The tornadoes then channel this current of flowing electric charge along twisted magnetic field lines into Earth's ionosphere to spark bright and colorful auroras," according to the article's author, Clara Moskowitz.
It seems that NASA has come up with a group of 5 spacecraft called THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) and launched them in February of 2007 to study these phenomenom.
Don't you love how NASA comes up with these strange anacronyms?
Although, it's no stranger then the TAU project, which stands for Thousand Astronomical Units and was designed to study the comets of the Kuiper Belt, where most comets live out beyond the PLANET Pluto.
MAGICIAN OF OZ was involved in that program back in the 80-90's when it morphed into the Pluto-Kuiper Express, then the Pluto Fast Fly-by, only to become the New Horizons spacecraft which now finds itself about halfway to Pluto, scheduled for a flyby in 2015.
It's interesting how the author used the Wizard of Oz tornado analogy to illustrate her opening point.
MAGICIAN OF OZ doesn't recall ever seeing Aurora Borealis, even the Aurora Australealis (that's the southern version of the northern lights) during his time in Oz. I wonder if the Land of Oz does experience these wonderful light shows of Nature. Seems like a question I'll have to ask Princess Ozma next time I find myself in the Land of Oz.
Meanwhile, I got to looking through my photographs and found a most pleasant example of these Space Tornados.
As beautiful sight as this is, it cannot compare to the loveliness of The Emerald City at night with its green glow visible nearly across all of Oz. The occasional meteor flashing by on its way to the Outside still brings back fond memories of the tall spires of green and silver that dotted the skyline of The Emerald City. The Fountain of Oblivion reflecting the stars above Oz appears as clear to me now as the first time I looked down into it that night not so long ago when Princess Ozma first described to me my new mission on her behalf.
The children of the world still await as her newest tale of adventure and courage makes its way through the process of publication.
Soon, Princess Ozma... Soon!
Long Live Oz!!!
James C. Wallace II
Royal Liaison to Princess Ozma