Doctors debunk 12 myths about sunscreen, sunburns, and tanning

Following is a transcript of the video.

Michelle Henry: “Getting a base tan will protect you from a sunburn later on.”

You know, a tan is temporary, but your skin never forgets.

“I’m covered — I applied sunscreen on my face, arms, and legs.”

Jeremy Brauer: You’re not covered.

“Getting sunburned once is harmless.”

All it takes is one blistering sunburn. One.

Hi, my name is Jeremy Brauer. I am a board-certified dermatologist and a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon. I have a new practice in Westchester, New York, called Spectrum Skin and Laser as well as practicing in Manhattan for about a decade.

Henry: Hi, I’m Dr. Michelle Henry. I’m a board-certified dermatologist and skin-cancer surgeon. I have a practice called Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan. I specialize in high-risk skin cancers, lasers, aesthetics, and general dermatology, and today we’ll be debunking myths about sun care.

“A higher SPF is always better.”

Brauer: So, that, I would have to say, is a myth. SPF is great when we think about UVB, or ultraviolet B, rays, but we also have to worry about our ultraviolet A rays, which also cause sun damage and skin cancer. So in that regard, you’re looking more for a broad-spectrum, UVA/UVB-protective sunscreen. The other part of this that makes it a myth is higher is not always better. Yes, 30 is better than 15, 50 is better than 30, but at some point, roughly around 50, you’re already at 98% blocking of your UVB rays.

Henry: And SPF 100 only takes you 1% more, to 99%, and is that really significant? Likely not. What’s most important to me is that you’re wearing 50 when you’re outdoors, but you also want to make sure you’re wearing sunglasses, utilizing shade structures, you’re wearing a hat, you’re paying attention to your skin.

Brauer: “You can have a ‘healthy tan.'”

Henry: Absolutely not. So, this is complete fake news. We know that UV light is a known carcinogen, so there really is zero safe dose of UV light.

Brauer: I would agree. Healthy and tan do not go together, by definition. When your skin is tanned, it’s damaged. And when you have damaged skin, you increase your risk of skin cancer. We know that approximately 90% of all skin cancers are directly related to exposure to ultraviolet A and B rays, and guess what? Those are what causes a skin to tan.

Henry: Exactly. You know, a tan is essentially just your skin’s stress response. So your skin is distressed when it’s tan. If you want tan skin, A, understand that your skin is OK and beautiful the way it is. But if you for the summer want to look a little bit tanner and you want to do that in a safe way, there are many companies that provide very safe sunless tanning creams, lotions, and sprays that can give you the look that you want but also keep you safe. And that is my singular recommendation for being tan.

“Getting a base tan will protect you from a sunburn later on.”

The tanning salons will tell you that if you get a base tan before you go out into the sun, it’s going to protect you. So, a base tan probably gives you about an SPF of 3. So if you burn in 20 minutes, now you’re going to burn in 60 minutes. That’s nothing. It doesn’t really help you significantly. But what it has done is increase your risk for skin cancer, increase your risk for accelerated aging. And, you know, a tan is temporary, but your skin never forgets. So what I tell my patients is that skin cancer is like the straw that broke the camel’s back. You never know when you’re getting that one last exposure that is now going to tip your skin cells over into being cancerous. So there really is zero safe level of UV.

Brauer: “You can’t get sunburned in the shade.”

Henry: Incorrect. So, you can absolutely get sunburned in the shade.

Brauer: Are you skiing? Are you at the beach? Is there sand? Are you sitting right next to an aluminum garbage can?

Henry: No matter where you are, the sun can reflect off of the concrete, the sand, the snow especially. With snow, about 80% of the sun’s rays actually reflect. So you’re actually still at risk and still quite vulnerable, even if you’re under a shade structure.

“You only need sunscreen if you’re going outside.”

Brauer: That is definitely a myth. We know for sure that whether you’re indoors sitting by a window or if you’re in a car driving, you are going to get exposure to ultraviolet light. Primarily it’s ultraviolet A, but as we’ve been talking about, ultraviolet A is just as dangerous as ultraviolet B. And even then, while these windows do protect you against most of ultraviolet B, it’s not all of ultraviolet B.

Henry: Curtains aren’t perfect, because, you know, clouds aren’t even perfect, right? So UVA makes its way completely through the clouds. So curtains alone won’t do it. You know, sunscreen alone won’t do it. It is a comprehensive plan to keep your skin safe.

“I’m covered — I applied sunscreen on my face, arms, and legs.”

Brauer: You’re not covered. We also think about arms, but what about the backs of your hands? And if you’re outside wearing flip-flops or open-toed shoes, sandals, the tops of your feet as well need to be protected with sunscreen.

Henry: The lips. That’s an area that’s really high risk for skin cancer, and as skin-cancer surgeons, we know that’s one of the areas where skin cancers can metastasize. Another area: the part. When men lose their protective covering on the scalp, you want to make sure that you’re protecting those areas. The chest, behind the legs, underneath the chin. I treat skin cancers underneath the chin all the time. So even if you’re just out on a patio having lunch with a friend, that light is getting reflected. So don’t forget underneath the chin as well.

Brauer: “Getting sunburned once is harmless.”

Henry: No. This is absolutely incorrect.

Brauer: All it takes is one blistering sunburn in your lifetime to increase your risk of skin cancer. One. Henry:

Henry: Those young formative years, not only are they psychologically important, but they’re clinically important to keeping you safe. We know that five sunburns before the age of 18 can double your risk for melanoma. So it’s really important that you’re protecting your skin early.

Brauer: I would say the best way to stay away from us is actually coming to see us.

Henry: Oh, yes, I like it!

Brauer: Everyone, as you said, everyone is incurring sun damage. Everyone should have a skin check by a board-certified dermatologist. And the idea is not just for the dermatologist to take a look at your skin, but also have a conversation with you about what your skin looks like and how you can prevent future sun damage, prevent development of skin cancer, what sunscreens might be appropriate for you.

Henry: Once you’ve had one skin cancer, you’re at an increased risk of having another one in the next year. And so it’s just, once you’ve accumulated that damage, you continue to have them, and you continue to have them. And so it’s really important that you take every sun exposure seriously, because you never know when you’re near your tipping point.

Brauer: And so, yes, what has happened has happened, but it doesn’t mean that it’s too late, and we absolutely can do things for you to help minimize the risk of development of skin cancer in the future.

Henry: “The sun is strongest when it’s hottest.”

Brauer: This is not necessarily true. The heat that you feel over the course of the day is actually cumulative, so for most of us, we actually feel the hottest a little later in the day, usually about 3 o’clock. So if you’re out at 10, 11 o’clock and you don’t feel it’s all that hot outside, guess what? That’s when the UV is actually strongest. There are certain times of the day where the sun is at the highest in the sky. And at that period of time, we believe that the ultraviolet light that we’ve talked about, UVA/UVB, is at its strongest and most damaging. In general, we talk about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. It can vary slightly, maybe 11 to 4, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s when it’s hottest during the day.

Henry: A little trick that I often use is the shadow trick. If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun is higher in the sky. If your shadow is a little bit longer or taller than you, so in the late morning or the late afternoon, then the sun is likely not at its peak.

Brauer: The other thing to think about is on a cool day, on a cloudy day, even on a winter day high up in the mountains, when you’re skiing, you’re getting ultraviolet damage occurring.

“People with darker skin don’t need sunscreen.”

Henry: So, everyone needs sunscreen. It does not matter your skin type. So we know that melanin is protective, but melanin is not perfect. So even the deepest, darkest skin ranges from an SPF, let’s say, 4 to SPF 13. And what do we recommend? SPF 30 and above. So even dark skin is not 100% protective. We know that we see skin cancers in darker skin types. What’s also important is that in darker skin types there’s often a lower index of suspicion, so we find them later. And because of this, the outcomes can be quite worse. So in darker skin types, we see that the five-year survival for melanoma is about 65%. In lighter skin types, it’s about 90%. And part of that is because of that lower index of suspicion. The thing about skin of color is that redness looks different, sun damage looks different, but it’s still there. Skin cancers look different. So some of the most common skin cancers, like basal cell skin cancers, which we classically describe as a pearly pink papule, in a darker-skin patient might look brown. It might, instead, it’s a pearly brown papule. And so, you know, it’s not that it doesn’t happen. It’s about being trained in a way to read those changes, because they’re there, they’re present, and it’s critical to find them.

Brauer: “All sunscreen works the same.”

Henry: Fortunately, they do not, because variety is really important, because different skin types have different needs. And so the two broad categories of sunscreens are your physical sunscreens and then your chemical sunscreens. So, chemical sunscreens work by bonding with your skin, and they convert UV light to heat. Physical sunscreens lay on top of the skin, and they reflect UV light.

Brauer: When we’re talking about physical sunscreens or physical blockers, those are the mineral sunscreens. In general, we think of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as the two prominent ingredients found in those sunscreens.

Henry: If someone has really sensitive skin, they may not want to use a chemical sunscreen, not only because of the chemicals, but because of that release of heat.

Brauer: In the news, very recently, there’s a lot of talk about contaminants, such as benzene, as well as the concern about whether or not, yes, are we getting that SPF protection? Are we getting that sun protection that the label is claiming that we do? We definitely need stronger regulation by the FDA. We need more consistency and standardization in the industry, but that being said, applying your sunscreen and using your sunscreen as directed is definitely better than not using it at all.

Henry: Absolutely. The best sunscreen for you is a sunscreen that you will use. It’s a wonderful thing that we have different variations. Creams for those who may have drier skin and enjoy that feeling of a richer cream. Lotions for those who don’t. Gels for those who may have oilier, acne-prone skin. Powders for those who want to reapply on their makeup. Sprays for those who are looking to catch their kids running away on the beach.

Brauer: But don’t inhale.

Henry: But don’t inhale. But don’t inhale.

Brauer: The important point to make is there is no waterproof sunscreen. So while it’s great that if you feel like you’re either going swimming or you’re going to be sweating or very active, you want to use a water-resistant sunscreen, I think it’s just as important that you realize once you get out of that pool or once you’re ready to towel off after a lot of sweating, you reapply.

“You don’t need sunscreen if your makeup has SPF.”

Henry: No. And this is a common question I get in the office. Frankly, we don’t apply our foundation the same way that we apply our sunscreen. Our sunscreen is a much more even application. If you’re applying, let’s say, eye shadow with SPF, most of us aren’t applying a thick sheet of eye shadow over our eyelid, and so there are going to be areas of vulnerability.

Brauer: And as we’ve spoken about before, it’s not just about that SPF number. You want to make sure that it’s UVA protective too. And that’s going to be found in your sunscreen, most likely not in your moisturizer. For physical blockers, I usually tell people that will go on last. But the chemical sunscreens, you maybe want to put that on prior to any other makeup that you’ll be using.

Henry: A big problem that happens is that we’ve become these mad scientists and these chemists that we’re not. And so when you start mixing formulations and you don’t understand how to formulate, frankly what you’re doing is you’re diluting your sunscreen. And so if you’re mixing your SPF with your moisturizer, now you have less protection. And we don’t even know how these formulations work together. Maybe it’s less than half. It’s just far too risky.

“You won’t get enough vitamin D if you use sunscreen.”

There are more than enough ways to get vitamin D that don’t cause skin cancer. So, I recommend supplementation, or, you know, dairy products also have vitamin D. So there are many ways you can get adequate vitamin D that’s not a carcinogen.

Brauer: And if what Michelle said is not enough, sunscreen, sunblock is not perfect. So you’re still getting sun exposure even when you apply sun protection perfectly. So it’s not as though you’re completely blocking the sun and you’re not making any vitamin D. You are making vitamin D. You do not need much sunlight to make vitamin D. So, if I had to say three things to leave you with, start young, reapply — it’s not just about that first application first thing in the morning — and it’s not just about sunscreen. We’ve talked about all the other things that are involved in a comprehensive plan for skin care and sun protection.

Henry: We’re excited about going outdoors. Our beaches are going to be busy. We want to make sure that while we’re having fun, we’re still being responsible. So sunscreen to me is an evergreen topic. We should talk about it year-round, but it’s particularly important right now.

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A ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse will be visible in the sky on Thursday. Here’s how to spot the rare event.

annular solar eclipse
An annular solar eclipse.

  • An annular solar eclipse will form in the sky at 6:53 a.m. ET on Thursday.
  • The phenomenon is marked by a bring circle of light, or ‘ring of fire,’ around the moon’s edge.
  • The sight is partially visible in the northeastern US but best seen from Canada and Russia.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A solar eclipse will be visible in the sky at 6:53 a.m. ET on Thursday, as the moon passes between the Earth and the sun.

During a total solar eclipse, the moon blocks the sun entirely. But Thursday’s spectacle is an annular solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon is too far from Earth – and therefore too small in the sky – to fully cover the sun. That leaves room for a brilliant halo of light, often referred to as a “ring of fire” or annulus, surrounding the moon.

The phenomenon won’t be visible everywhere: Parts of Canada, Greenland, and Russia will have the best views. People in the northeastern US, northern Europe, and northern Asia will be able to see a partial solar eclipse, which will look as if someone has taken a bite out of the sun.

This will be the only annular solar eclipse this year, though it’s the first of two solar eclipses in 2021. The year’s second solar eclipse – a total eclipse – will take place on December 4.

Annular solar eclipses are rare spectacles

A combination of photos depicts a partial annular solar eclipse observed with the use of a solar filter in Siak, Riau province, Indonesia, December 26, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan
A partial annular solar eclipse observed with the use of a solar filter.

The glowing “ring of fire” in an annular eclipse is only visible for a short time: anywhere from a fraction of a second to over 12 minutes. Last year’s annular solar eclipse lasted just under 90 seconds.

Depending on your vantage point, you may still be able to see a band of light form along the moon’s edge, then disappear over the span of roughly three hours.

Total solar eclipses usually happen every five to six months, but annular solar eclipses only occur every year or two. That’s because they require a precise set of conditions: To start, the sun, moon, and Earth must all be aligned. The moon must also be close to its apogee, or farthest point from Earth – around 252,700 miles away.

In any solar eclipse, the moon’s shadow carves a path across the Earth. During a total solar eclipse, the darkest part of the moon’s shadow, called the umbra, hits the Earth. But during an annular solar eclipse – when the moon is farther from Earth – our planet instead passes through a part of the moon’s shadow called the antumbra, which isn’t quite as dark.

You’ll need special glasses to stare directly at the eclipse

solar eclipse
Children use special glasses to look into the sky during a partial solar eclipse in Madrid, Spain on March 20, 2015.

It’s dangerous to stare directly at any solar eclipse for the same reasons it’s dangerous to look at the sun: The bright light can damage cells in your retina.

This may ultimately distort your vision, resulting in blind spots or trouble making out shapes. Your eyes can also become watery and sore. Sometimes, these side effects won’t show up for a few hours or even a few days.

So if you want to view Thursday’s solar eclipse in person, NASA recommends wearing a pair of “eclipse glasses” with special solar filters. (The American Astronomical Society has a list of reputable manufacturers.) You can also purchase a pair of welder’s goggles in shade 12 or higher.

Sunglasses aren’t a proper substitute – they transmit thousands of times too much sunlight, according to NASA.

The eclipse will also be livestreamed on Thursday for those looking to watch from home.

After this, the next annular solar eclipse won’t happen until October 14, 2023. In the meantime, the world can look forward to December’s total solar eclipse, plus two partial solar eclipses in 2022.

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American sunscreens may not be as effective as European sunscreens. Here’s why.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: In 2017, researchers tested 20 best-selling US sunscreens. The good news is that 19 of them met FDA standards. The bad news? Nine of them didn’t meet European standards. Turns out, different countries have different rules for what makes a safe sunscreen and US sunscreens may not be protecting Americans as well as it could. When we lay in the sun, our skin absorbs two types of UV light. UVA and UVB rays. UVB light is higher energy and can cause sunburns while UVA penetrates deeper under the skin and can damage skin cells along the bottom layer of your epidermis.

Desai: We know that UVB rays are the rays that cause sunburns. But UVA rays are the rays that can actually cause skin cancer so you actually wanna cover the spectrum on both of those. I think a lot of people get into a misconception that I didn’t get sunburned so I’m not at prone to getting skin cancer which really isn’t true.

Narrator: The biggest concern with US sunscreen is how much protection you’re getting from cancer-causing UVA rays. For decades, FDA regulations required that sunscreens protect against UVB, but not necessarily against UVA. Meanwhile, rates for melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer, kept climbing in the US. Then, in 2012, the FDA updated its regulations on labeling and testing so that manufacturers must now let customers know if its sunscreen protects against both UVB and UVA. That’s what the broad spectrum label on your sunscreen means, for example. And while this is a good first step, there’s still no regulation on how much protection you’re getting from UVA. So, there’s no way to tell.

Desai: Here in the United States, I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that when a sunscreen says it’s broad spectrum, UVA- and UVB-protecting, that does mean you’re going to get protection against those rays. However, what it does not mean is that it’s going to block out all of the rays.

Narrator: And that’s where US sunscreens fall short.

Desai: And I will say that I do think we are behind other countries globally, particularly some of our European counterparts, in getting new sunscreen ingredients approved. Overall, there has not been much change in US sunscreen composition and what our sunscreens are made up of in the past several years.

Narrator: The FDA has approved 16 active ingredients that protect against UV radiation. But only some protect against both UVB and UVA rays. For comparison, Europe requires that all of its more than 20 active ingredients protect against both.

Desai: Right now, the American Academy of Dermatology and other organizations are really advocating with the FDA that they need to really speed up the approval process for new sunscreen ingredients. Because it’s with these ingredients that we can probably get even better coverage and better protection and maybe even get something that’s easier to apply, that’s easier on the skin, that doesn’t have any harmful side effects for patients.

Narrator: You can purchase sunscreens from other countries online. But if you plan on sticking with American sunscreens, look for the broad spectrum label and don’t buy anything below SPF 30.

Desai: The higher the SPF, definitely the better. But we definitely don’t want anyone going below a 30. And think about if you’re someone who has a history of a melanoma, if you use an SPF 30, you’re blocking out let’s say 98% of the harmful rays. However, what about the remaining 2%? That 2% may be something that could be potential of putting you at a risk down the road.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in November 2018.

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A sun-skimming spacecraft captured video of a massive plasma eruption on the solar surface for the first time

solar orbiter sun spacecraft
An artist’s impression of the Solar Orbiter observing an eruption on the sun.

The sun is constantly bubbling and bursting. If eruptions on its surface are big enough, they can send billions of tons of plasma and electrically charged particles hurtling toward Earth.

To observe and study those kinds of explosions – called coronal mass ejections (CMEs) – NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) launched the Solar Orbiter probe in February 2020.

The probe made a close approach to our star this year, on February 10, when it flew within 48 million miles (77 million kilometers) of the sun – half the distance between the sun and Earth. As it careened past the sun, back to cooler zones of space, the orbiter caught video footage of two CMEs.

Three imaging instruments on the spacecraft traced the CME as it left the sun and spread through space. The first instrument recorded the sun itself, while the second captured the flow of energy through the sun’s corona, or outer atmosphere.

A third imager captured the stream of electrically charged particles, dust, and cosmic rays flowing out into space from the eruption.

coronal mass ejection cme solar wind gif
The first coronal mass ejection, or CME, observed by the Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager appears as a sudden gust of white.

Solar storms can brew dangerous space weather

Outbursts like this are beautiful, and they often interact with Earth’s atmosphere to make the aurora lights, but they can be dangerous.

In 1989, an inundation of electrically charged particles from the sun knocked out Quebec’s power for about nine hours. Two other solar storms cut off emergency radio communications for a total of 11 hours shortly after Hurricane Irma in 2017. A solar storm may have even cut off SOS broadcasts from the Titanic as it sank in 1912.

aurora borealis iss
The aurora borealis, or the “northern lights,” over Canada is sighted from the space station near the highest point of its orbital path, September 15, 2017.

Bursts of solar activity can also endanger astronauts by interfering with their spacecraft or knocking out communications to mission control.

That’s why the Solar Orbiter is investigating such eruptions. Studying the source of these unpredictable electrical storms could help scientists figure out how to protect both astronauts and Earth’s electric grid.

“What we want to do with Solar Orbiter is to understand how our star creates and controls the constantly changing space environment throughout the solar system,” Yannis Zouganelis, an ESA scientist working on the mission, said last year, before the probe launched. “There are still basic mysteries about our star that remain unsolved.”

Watching solar explosions from 2 sides of the sun

On the other side of the sun, near Earth, two other ESA spacecraft – the Proba-2 satellite and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) – also captured the same two CMEs. The footage below show’s Proba-2’s view of the the eruptions (left) and SOHO’s imagery of the plasma shooting through space (right).

NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, a spacecraft orbiting the sun alongside Earth, also saw the two CMEs. That telescope blocks out the sun to capture eruptions more clearly – its footage is below.

coronal mass ejection cme solar eruption gif
The first CME witnessed by the Solar Orbiter’s Heliospheric Imager, as seen from NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory-A spacecraft.

The sun is entering a new 11-year solar cycle, which means its eruptions and flares are expected to grow more frequent and violent, ramping up to a peak in 2025.

Over the next six years, the Solar Orbiter is set to fly closer to the sun’s poles than any previous probe has come. It’s also expected to send the first photos of the solar poles back to Earth. The spacecraft will be able to keep pace with the sun’s rotation, which enables it to hover over specific spots for long periods of time to watch CMEs and other areas of heightened activity.

By combining data from Solar Orbiter and other space telescopes, NASA and the ESA can watch solar eruptions from their source almost all the way back to Earth.

Already, the Solar Orbiter has spotted these two CMEs and captured the closest images ever taken of the sun. But it’s just getting started. Right now, the spacecraft is in cruise mode – it’s getting its bearings and testing its instruments. The spacecraft is scheduled to start operating all those instruments at full capacity in November. That’s when it will be in full science mode.

Eventually, the probe should venture even closer to the sun than the planet Mercury – within 26 million miles (42 million kilometers).

“We’ve realized in the last 25 years that there’s a lot that happens to a CME between the surface of the sun and Earth,” Robin Colaninno, a researcher working on one of Solar Orbiter’s cameras, said in a NASA release. “So we’re hoping to get much better resolution images of all of these outflows by being closer to the sun.”

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Earth’s north magnetic pole is on the move – here’s what will happen when our poles flip

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Did you know that Earth has two North Poles? There’s the geographic North Pole, which never changes. And there’s the magnetic North Pole, which is always on the move. And right now it’s moving faster than usual.

Over the past 150 years, the magnetic North Pole has casually wandered 685 miles across northern Canada. But right now it’s racing 25 miles a year to the northwest.

This could be a sign that we’re about to experience something humans have never seen before: a magnetic polar flip. And when this happens, it could affect much more than just your compass.

Alanna Mitchell: Right now on the surface of the planet, it looks like it’s just a bar magnet. Our compasses are just pointing to one pole at a time because there’s a dominant two-pole system.

But sometimes, Earth doesn’t always just have a single magnetic North and South Pole. Evidence suggests that, for hundreds to thousands of years at a time, our planet has had four, six, and even eight poles at a time. This is what has happened when the magnetic poles flipped in the past. And when it happens again, it won’t be good news for humans.

Now you might think, eight poles must be better than two. But the reality is that: Multiple magnetic fields would fight each other. This could weaken Earth’s protective magnetic field by up to 90% during a polar flip.

Earth’s magnetic field is what shields us from harmful space radiation which can damage cells, cause cancer, and fry electronic circuits and electrical grids. With a weaker field in place, some scientists think this could expose planes to higher levels of radiation, making flights less safe.

This could also disrupt the internal compass in many animals who use the magnetic field for navigation. Even more extreme, it could make certain places on the planet too dangerous to live. But what exactly will take place on the surface is less clear than what will undoubtedly happen in space.

Satellites and crewed space missions will need extra shielding that we’ll have to provide ourselves. Without it, intense cosmic and solar radiation will fry circuit boards and increase the risk of cancer in astronauts.

Our modern way of life could cease to exist. We know this because we’re already seeing a glimpse of this in an area called the South Atlantic Anomaly. Turns out, the direction of a portion of the magnetic field deep beneath this area has already flipped! And scientists say that’s one reason why the field has been steadily weakening since 1840.

As a result, the Hubble Space Telescope and other satellites often shut down their sensitive electronics as they pass over the area. And astronauts on the International Space Station reported seeing a higher number of bright flashes of light in their vision, thought to be caused by high-energy cosmic rays that the weaker field can’t hold back.

Since experts started measuring the Anomaly a few decades ago, it has grown in size and now covers a fifth (20.3%) of Earth’s surface, with no signs of shrinking anytime soon. This is so extreme that it could be a sign we’re on the brink of a polar flip, or we may already be in the midst of one!

But scientists remain skeptical, mainly because …

Mitchell: They don’t know. The last time the poles reversed was 780,000 years ago so it’s not like we have a record for this.

Turns out 780,000 years is over double the time Earth usually takes between flips.

Mitchell: In the past 65 million years since the last mass extinction there have been reversals roughly every 300,000 years.

So what gives? Well, scientists haven’t figured it out yet. It’s unnerving to think that our modern way of life – banking, the stock exchange, missile tracking, GPS – relies on the outcome of something we can neither predict, nor control. One study went so far as to estimate that a single, giant solar storm today could cost the US up to $41.5 billion a day in damages.

And that’s with Earth’s magnetic field at its current strength. It’s frightening to imagine the devastation a storm would bring to an Earth with a magnetic field only 10% as strong.

We may not be able to stop a polar flip, but we can at least start to take measures to minimize the damage. The first step? Figure out what’s going on with this whacky field.

On the hunt are the European Space Agency’s SWARM satellites, which are collecting the most precise data on the strength of Earth’s magnetic field. Right now, they could be our greatest hope for solving this riddle.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published on April 9, 2018.

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What would happen if humans tried to land on Jupiter

  • Jupiter is made of mostly hydrogen and helium gas.
  • If you tried to land on Jupiter, it would be a bad idea.
  • You’d face extremely hot temperatures and you’d free-float in mid-Jupiter with no way of escaping.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: The best way to explore a new world is to land on it. That’s why humans have sent spacecraft to the Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn’s moon, Titan, and more.

But there are a few places in the solar system we will never understand as well as we’d like. One of them is Jupiter.

Jupiter is made of mostly hydrogen and helium gas. So, trying to land on it would be like trying to land on a cloud here on Earth. There’s no outer crust to break your fall on Jupiter. Just an endless stretch of atmosphere.

The big question, then, is: Could you fall through one end of Jupiter and out the other? It turns out, you wouldn’t even make it halfway. Here’s what would happen if you tried to land on Jupiter.

*It’s important to note that we feature the Lunar Lander for the first half of the descent. In reality, the Lunar Lander is relatively delicate compared to, say, NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Therefore, the Lunar Lander would not be used for a mission to land on any world that contains an atmosphere, including Jupiter. However, any spacecraft, no matter how robust, would not survive for long in Jupiter, so the Lunar Lander is as good of a choice as any for this hypothetical scenario. 

First things first, Jupiter’s atmosphere has no oxygen. So make sure you bring plenty with you to breathe. The next problem is the scorching temperatures. So pack an air conditioner. Now, you’re ready for a journey of epic proportions.

For scale, here’s how many Earths you could stack from Jupiter’s center. As you enter the top of the atmosphere, you’re be traveling at 110,000 mph under the pull of Jupiter’s gravity.

But brace yourself. You’ll quickly hit the denser atmosphere below, which will hit you like a wall. It won’t be enough to stop you, though.

After about 3 minutes you’ll reach the cloud tops 155 miles down. Here, you’ll experience the full brunt of Jupiter’s rotation. Jupiter is the fastest rotating planet in our solar system. One day lasts about 9.5 Earth hours. This creates powerful winds that can whip around the planet at more than 300 mph.

About 75 miles below the clouds, you reach the limit of human exploration. The Galileo probe made it this far when it dove into Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1995. It only lasted 58 minutes before losing contact and was eventually destroyed by the crushing pressures.

Down here, the pressure is nearly 100 times what it is at Earth’s surface.  And you won’t be able to see anything, so you’ll have to rely on instruments to explore your surroundings.

By 430 miles down, the pressure is 1,150 times higher. You might survive down here if you were in a spacecraft built like the Trieste submarine – the deepest diving submarine on Earth. Any deeper and the pressure and temperature will be too great for a spacecraft to endure.

However, let’s say you could find a way to descend even farther. You will uncover some of Jupiter’s grandest mysteries. But, sadly, you’ll have no way to tell anyone. Jupiter’s deep atmosphere absorbs radio waves, so you’ll be shut off from the outside world- unable to communicate.

Once you’ve reached 2,500 miles down, the temperature is 6,100 ºF.  That’s hot enough to melt tungsten, the metal with the highest melting point in the Universe. At this point, you will have been falling for at least 12 hours. And you won’t even be halfway through.

At 13,000 miles down, you reach Jupiter’s innermost layer. Here the pressure is 2 million times stronger than at Earth’s surface. And the temperature is hotter than the surface of the sun. These conditions are so extreme they change the chemistry of the hydrogen around you. Hydrogen molecules are forced so close together that their electrons break lose, forming an unusual substance called metallic hydrogen. Metallic hydrogen is highly reflective. So, if you tried using lights to see down here it would be impossible.

And it’s as dense as a rock. So, as you travel deeper, the buoyancy force from the metallic hydrogen counteracts gravity’s downward pull.  Eventually, that buoyancy will shoot you back up until gravity pulls you back down, sort of like a yo-yo. And when those two forces equal, you’ll be left free-floating in mid-Jupiter, unable to move up or down, and no way to escape!

Suffice it say, trying to land on Jupiter is a bad idea. We may never see what’s beneath those majestic clouds. But we can still study and admire this mysterious planet from afar.

 

A special thanks to Kunio Sayanagi at Hampton University, for his help with this video.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in February 2018.

Read the original article on Business Insider