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Salient: An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington Vol. 24, No. 6. 1961.

Science Column

Science Column

Interest in solar phenomena has grown tremendously in the last few years among scientists working in the most diverse fields. In particular the "terrestial" sciences are making broader use of astronomical information, and geo-physicists, biologists and doctors have shown much interest. Of course, astronomers do not forecast the weather by the changes in sunspots, or frame hypotheses upon the influence of solar eruptions on the health of human beings; but they are deeply interested in the relationships between phenomena on the sun and on earth.

It has long been recognised that the state of the upper layers of the Earth's atmosphere is controlled by solar activity. There is no doubt whatsoever that magnetic storms and also the Aurorae, are created by torrents of charged particles — corpuscles — ejected from the Sun, from time to time, at a velocity of 1500 km. per sec. These, in a sense, can be regarded as a continuation of the outer and most rarefied envelope of the Sun—the corona—where the temperature reaches 1,000,000 degrees. The state of the Earth's ionosphere, so vital for radio communications, also depends on the Sun's ultra-violet and Roentgen radiations.

The relationships between solar activity and the weather, are more confusing. Although such relationships undoubtedly do exist, the same solar phenomenon, say, a chromospheric eruption, can lead to different consequences in different parts of the world. Solar activity influences the Earth's atmosphere as a whole, altering the nature of big atmospheric cyclones. It has been established that increased solar activity intensified both cyclones and anticyclones on Earth. Investigations by climatologists indicate that the decline of solar activity should lead to more stable weather in the next few years.

Recently a conference in Brussels discussed questions of relationships between physio-chemical and biological phenomena. Eminent chemists and biologists unanimously upheld the view that solar phenomena cause complicated chemical processes on the Earth. Their influence on living creatures, they stressed, should not be ignored. The future will show how correct these conclusions are.