June 02, 2012
Everyone knows that the hotter, longer days of summer are brought about by the sun. During the summertime, the Northern Hemisphere of the Earth is the closest to the sun that it will be all year, bringing the seasonal change. However, the sun does far more than just cause seasons to change. The sun’s energy provides us with solar power, as well as providing a necessary catalyst for plants to grow. Solar flares cause the Northern Lights, and the sun’s rays can be diffused to make rainbows. Yeah, the sun does countless things for the Earth – no question about that.
However, that’s not the interesting part. We walk around all the time under the sun, often unaware of its existence beyond the sphere of distinguishing day from night. What’s surprising, what brings the sun into focus, is all of the things that you can do using the sun.
In fact, if you got lost on a desert island, the sun could solve a good portion of your problems. You can use the sun to mark time (a sundial) and to get your bearings. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west. You can use the sun to start a fire using the sun’s rays and a distorting lens, such as a pair of reading glasses. In fact, you can even use the sun to make fresh water out of salt water. If you dig into the sand on a beach until you reach the water deep below, you can start by placing a small container in the center of the salt water. Then, cover the entire pit with a piece of clear plastic that droops down a little in the center. The sun will cause the water from the pit to evaporate, leaving the salt behind. The water then condenses on the plastic sheet, running down to drip into the container. There you have it, fresh water!
In fact, one of the coolest experiments that you can do is coming up on June 5th. Venus will pass in front of the sun for the last time until 2117. You can observe this phenomenon by holding up a piece of paper to the eyepiece of a set of binoculars or by wearing eclipse shades. Either way, it’s time to start noticing. Go out and see what solar power can really do!
Oak Grove Branch